Monday, January 2, 2012

Approaching newness with an old caution

The feelings that the dawn of a new year brings are varied, to be sure. It will be different for a married person with a family just as it will be different for a single person who is newly employed. It will be challenging for those embarking on a new adventure or enterprise, and it will also be akin to walking on eggshells for those who have come from a former year that had been fraught with pains, disappointments and perhaps failure. As I write this first blog entry of 2012, I realize that there are some strange feelings within me, putting my thoughts in words for a readership that is largely 9000 km away from me, alone in the winter night of Washington DC. What are these feelings? It’s a strange hamper – of wistful longing, of hope, of deep appreciation and perhaps not too surprisingly, of melancholy.

I am sure that I am not alone in recognizing this gamut of emotions as the earth that we are on slowly turns to face the sun for the final time of 2011. What cannot be changed is the fact that a new year will be dawning (or, depending on when you get to read this entry – has dawned) upon us. But what can be affected, governed and influenced will be how we do what we do in the coming year. Many no doubt, will wish one another a Happy New Year. But it is also very true that happiness is an inside job. If our happiness depends on external factors alone, then our familiar greeting of “Happy New Year” is akin to being fatalists, or believing in pre-destination, that each of our lives is set on a pre-determined course. But we Catholics are not fatalists, nor have we ever believed that our lives are moving on a pre-set course that we can do nothing about.

Rom 14:7 is a familiar text to many who have participated attentively at funeral liturgies. It reads “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others”. That we influence one another in an organically connected way within the Body of Christ has to bear great weight on how we live our lives, especially on the cusp of a new year.

I watched a rather interesting documentary on the life of Harper Lee, the renowned literary award-winning author of the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird”, a book very dear to me, and came away with the idea of this blog’s reflection. I was surprised to learn that when Ms Lee wrote that book, when she met her publishers for the first time in their office in New York City back in 1957, she didn’t think very much of her work. In fact, she was hoping for a ‘quick and merciful death’ at the hands of the reviewers. But many authors have since named her classic as the one work that had influenced their vision and made them the authors that they are now.

Isn’t that what each of us secretly harbours in our heart of hearts? That our lives, our direction in life, our hopes and dreams actually bear a positive and generative influence for others who are members of the Body of Christ? Which parent doesn’t want her child to see her actions as examples of shining lights in a world darkened by selfishness and sin? Which teacher doesn’t want his charges to absorb the best that he can share through the dissemination of knowledge and experience? Which leader doesn’t want those under her leadership to become just as if not even greater leaders with vision and foresight? And, I suppose, on a more personal note, which priest doesn’t pray that his flock and those he is entrusted with become saints through his direction and care?

Is the ego on grand display here? It will certainly be an element in the whole works, but what we need to realize is that when it becomes the overriding impetus for our why we are doing what we are doing, that is when we need to take a step back and calm the torrential waters of the false self that can cause a myriad of problems of our lives.

This is also the best time to go back to Rom 14:7, and continue to read the remaining parts of that verse, which tell us just how we should be influencing others. It goes thus - “if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead, we belong to the Lord.” The fact remains for us Christians, that as long as we are Christ-centered in our lives, the weight and extent of our influence should not have much negative impact on others, but lead them to greater heights of wholeness and holiness.

Yes, we do like new things don’t we? We look forward to new experiences, new relationships, new business ventures, new opportunities and new hopes in the coming year. When I am given these, I need to be mindful that I should be handling them with an old caution, not to make the same stupid mistakes that I did in the past. And if I were truly honest with myself, I’d have to admit that Christ was hardly at my centre when those adventures became misadventures.

Do I wish every one of my readers a Happy New Year? Without a doubt. But it comes with a qualification – that in 2012, the paths that each of us takes towards happiness is greatly formed and influenced first by having the Lord in the centre of our lives.


  1. Dear Fr. Luke,

    A very happy and blessed new year!

    How apt that you have chosen to have us reflect on Rom. 14:7; the reminder that we are responsible for each other and the acknowledgement that all that we are and have comes from the Lord, is a sober and important message as we start 2012.

    Over the Christmas season, there was a newspaper report of a taxi driver who was abused (a wine bottle was smashed on his head)by a passenger for taking the wrong route! Apparently, no one was willing to help him except for a couple who bravely stood up to the abuser and called for medical help (and the police). There are so many passages in the bible that tell of this similar tale!

    Thank you for shepherding us in the "straight and narrow path" and reminding us constantly (even from 9000 km away)that we have a greater responsiblity as a Christian community to be "light" for others.

    Keeping you always in thought and prayer.

    Warm regards,

  2. I took your “hamper’’ and threw into it the events, the happenings of the year – of joy and sadness, of sunshine and shadow, of weddings and funerals.............and tying it up with a big bow that reads 2011 – I experience a gamut of emotions. Gratitude and thanksgiving, wistfulness and longing, melancholy and nostalgia – definitely! But what seems to be surprising - is that feeling of an inconsolable frustration of ‘’having missed it yet again’’ – the resolution to be more aware of the Divine in my daily doings.

    I could be more prayerful or intense my prayer life but I believe this is not the answer for it has nothing to do with quantity. ....rather it is the approach to each new challenge. Sometimes in each new challenge, I am so tempted to send people away , not wanting to dig into my own resource because of the fear that my resource is not enough......... I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task.........of the incessant requests and appeals – yes- even for prayers.

    Then today, the Gospel of John challenges me to ......’’come and see’’ – what do I see? That in the prayers of petition and intercession – I’ve only been asking God ‘’to be Our God’’-( to be caring and loving ) but I have never really paid attention to that part that says, ‘’we be His people’’ To be that, one would have to allow Him not only just to dwell within but to let His attitudes and values govern and influence my life. And that probably is what it means to be really Christ-centred. So , yes I do agree with you that I should approach this New Year, this newness with an old caution!

    God bless you, Fr

  3. Like Tessa, my last confession for the year was "I missed it again". The dance towards holiness last year has been marred with so many 2 left feet movements, and worse, foot in the mouth moments.

    In the new year, I resolve to be more aware that Christ is the lead dancer and that he must be given the seat of honour in my life.

    Most importantly, I know it is going to be a Happy New Year for my family and me. I fully trust that our God is good, and in Him, are blessings in abundance!

    May you too be led by our great God in the new year, Fr Luke.

  4. Dear Fr Luke,

    Yes, you introduced me to psalm 139...

    We will approach 2012 with caution - the celebrant priest shared with us psalm 91...

    Thank you Fr Luke for all teachings...Mat.

  5. This article reminds me this note:
    "God will turn mess into a message,
    from trials into triumphs,
    from victims become victors."