Crossing into a New Year

We recently celebrated New Year’s Day on 1 January. On 25 and 26 January we celebrated Lunar New Year. We are providentially still in a time of new beginnings. “New” because we begin a new year. “Beginnings” because we begin again another year to live, to work, to interact, to love, to forgive, to grow in Jesus’ way and to become saints, even if we struggle (as we will) with our Christian life

The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner wrote the following reflection about beginning a new year. He reflects on the important work you and I have to stay focus on God as we make our way through the year. The name of God, Rahner, invites us to keep in our minds and hearts is “Jesus”.

I invite you to read this article and prayerfully reflect on the questions that follow.

“In the Name of Jesus”

We are beginning a new year in secular life, not a new Church year. But the earthly year, everyday life, the life of work and worry, is, of course, the field in which our salvation has to be worked out in God’s sight. And so we have every reason to begin this year too in God’s name. Let us in God’s name then begin once more, go on once more, honestly and unwearied. Time presses. One can fall into despair or melancholy when one realizes on New Year’s Eve that yet another part of one’s earthly life is irrevocably past. But time presses on towards God and eternity, not towards the past and destruction. And so — in God’s name!

There is a pious custom of writing C+M+B [the names of the Three Wise Men] above the doors at Epiphany. Let us inscribe above the gate of the New Year the name of God, the name of God in whom is our help, the name of Jesus. Jesus means: Yahweh helps. Yahweh was the proper name of the God of the Old Testament nation of the Covenant. That we can give God a name, God the nameless and incomprehensible, whom man of himself ultimately knows only as remote and obscure and incomprehensible, is due to the fact that he made himself known in the history of his own action and speech. We can perceive from the way in which he acts how he really wills to be in our regard. All the experiences which man has had with the living God in his action in us are summed up in the “name” of his God. Only a proper name, never a merely abstract general concept, comprises the full, indivisible and irreducible totality of what can be experienced of a living person through lasting relations with them. And Jesus as a proper name tells us how Yahweh willed to be in our regard: close, loving, helpful, faithful to the end. In Jesus and by him we know what we have in God. Otherwise, we do not. He is the Word of the Father, in whom as the word of mercy God expresses himself to the world. Consequently, if we wish to say who our God is, we must say “Jesus.” If we are to forget this Word, God would disappear for us into the dark inaccessibility of an incomprehensible “ground of the world.” But we Christians know the definitive name of God: Jesus. For that is the name which that child received who is God and the eternal youth of the world, who is a man and as such the eternal countenance of God.

Let us give this name to the coming year. Let us sign the Cross of this Jesus on brow, mind and heart. Let us say with relief: our help is in the name of the Lord! And then stoutheartedly let us cross the threshold of the New Year. If his name shines above it, even its darkest hour will be an hour of the year of the Lord and of his salvation.

Having read Rahner’s reflection, here are three points for your prayerful reflection to begin this new year well and so work to live it better:

a) Look back on 2019. Look at how you lived your life and faith. Look at how you managed your struggles with same-sex attraction. What are the lights and joys you want to thank God for? What are the regrets and failings you wish to ask God’s forgiveness for? What lessons have you learned that give you the confidence to live this year better? Take some time to consider. Then, speak with the Lord as you would to a friend, sharing honestly and confidently because He wants to hear from you, his friend.

b) As you read Rahner’s reflection, what word(s) or phrase(s) caught your attention. How do they move or touch you about God’s love, Jesus, in your life as you begin 2020? Why do they matter to you as you continue entering the new year? As a person with same-sex attraction, do any words or phrases comfort and console you with the truth that God is truly with you always? Make a list of these words and phrases to remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life. Speak some words of thanksgiving to God.

c) Every new beginning promises hope that life, faith, relationship, many things can get better and brighter. Re-read the final paragraph above and notice how our help us really in the name of the Lord who is Jesus — Jesus who promises to be with us always to the end of time. Take some time and consider making a gesture of commitment — in word or deed — to offer this year to Jesus and ask him to be your help always. When you are ready, bring your commitment to Jesus with some words of prayer.

Words of Encouragement for this week

Let’s pray then that we begin this new year singing a new song that God is with us and God is always faithful to us who God calls his own, his beloved, his saints.