In purely physical terms, the new year is just the beginning of another cycle of the planet in its orbit around our sun, bringing the four seasons in temperate regions and ushering in the dry season here in the Caribbean.
In terms of human psychology however, each new year marks a fresh start. It allows us to turn the page, make new promises and plans, and put any disappointments and difficulties of the previous year behind us, while celebrating the joys it may have brought.
It’s impossible to erase the past, and indeed we may not want to do that entirely because the past offers blessings and learnings which may usefully guide our future course. But the new year enables us to press the reset button and to change course if we need to.
What animates this resetting and renewal is Hope. Hope is one of the theological virtues: “…it responds to the aspiration of happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church p.1818). Hope springs from our discomfort with the world as it is and a desire to transform our world so that our activities are purified and ordered to the Kingdom of Heaven.
This discomfort is both personal and societal. At a personal level, we may feel the need to correct certain faults and failings, repair broken relationships by asking the forgiveness of others, and in our turn, forgive those who have trespassed against us.
At a societal level, there is much that we might feel uncomfortable about: the rising murder rate, other forms of criminal activity, our millennial generations who are drifting away, the problems of refugees, poverty and inequality, and the dislocations of families mainly in south Trinidad caused by the closure of Petrotrin and by unprecedented flooding.
At times, feeling daunted or overwhelmed and desperate for relief, we grasp at quick fixes or false messiahs. We may even compromise our principles.
We should not confuse hope with a naive and starry-eyed optimism. Life brings difficulties and challenges and it takes faith to find joy and peace amidst those difficulties and challenges.
So we must plan to chart a new course for our society and a fresh start in our personal lives. The Archdiocese and individual parishes are now fully engaged in planning for the future, with an overriding focus on our youth.
We have been diagnosing our situation in respect of Parish, Family, Catholic Education, Clergy and Vocations, and Leadership in Church and Society. We have been clarifying our objectives and figuring out what we must do to chart a new course in these areas. This process is animated by Hope.
But as the late Fr Henry Charles in his homily ‘Purifying Hope’ reminded us: “…Hope involves a certain ignorance. Hope is not seeing. It is living as if one saw. Hope requires cultivation, but it also needs great care. We should resist the temptation to fill it with details. If we predict the manner of Hope’s fulfilment, God may do things differently.”
So as we develop and implement our plans, we must also leave a great deal of space in those plans for God to act.
Let us therefore enter the new year with real hope rooted in the belief that God is ever-present and ever-acting in our lives and, relying on Him, make our plans for a fresh start personally and for Trinidad and Tobago. Happy New Year!