Happy New Year!
The world ushers in the eve of the New Year with a big bang of fireworks, noise makers, parties and other revelries. There are various reasons to celebrate. Many look at the occasion with gratitude for the blessings they have had, such as achievements and successes in life. Others rejoice for overcoming challenges and leaving behind the troubles and difficulties of the past year. For some, to be able to survive is more than enough to make them feel happy. Those still facing many hurdles in life see the new year as an opportunity to move onward with new resolutions and renewed hope for something better to come.
Our Catholic Church celebrates this day with great joy for the blessings it brings, the Solemn Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, which is a holy day of obligation in our diocese. The birth of Christ, the Savior of the World, was made possible in God’s divine design through the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her humility, obedience and willingness paved the way for God to fulfill His promise of salvation to the world. For this reason, the joy of Christmas continues as we reflect on God’s precious gift to us in Christ.
To call Mary the Mother of God (“Theotokos”) reminds us of what Christmas really means. We have a caring, loving and saving God who dwells in our world. We are His beloved children, precious and sacred in His eyes, and we are not alone in our struggles and difficulties in life. In the midst of war, violence, hatred and a culture of indifference to the sufferings around us, we can still say “Emmanuel” – God is with us. This gives us joy, peace and happiness.
On that first Christmas, the angels announced the good news to the shepherds, who hurried to find the Holy Family and relate the heavenly message. Our Blessed Mother “treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She pondered in silence the significance of the birth of Christ, of God becoming man to a sinful world. Christ’s presence in our life and the world brings renewal and a new beginning. The world will be different if we can recognize our common identity as one humanity, as God’s family and that we all are brothers and sisters in Christ.
The message of Pope Francis on the 53rd World Day of Peace on January 1, 2020, “Peace, A Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion,” puts hope as our path to peace. This is not only our aspiration but our direction in life – to be beacons of hope by promoting a culture of life instead of death, sowing love and peace instead of hatred and violence, building bridges of harmonious relationship instead of walls that separate us. Let us keep Christ in our heart, and chances are that 2020 will another happy new year.
Christ’s blessings to everyone!
+The Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis
Bishop of Salt Lake City