December 31, 2019 – New Year’s Eve Mass –
-Liturgy of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God-
Click here for the readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010120.cfm
I would like to ask you first to look at the person beside you now, on your right and on your left. Look at that person and say “thank you.”
The expression “thank you” can also be altered by saying, “I (really) appreciate you.” This means that the expression extends and recognizes not just the act or object given but also the giver himself/herself. This is a recognition of the presence of the person.
In Bahasa Indonesia, thank you is translated as “terimakasih.” This comes from two words, terima and kasih, which literally means “receive or accept and heart or love.” Saying terimakasih means I receive/accept your heart/love for me. This is basically saying that I accept the person or receive the person into my life. This does not just make the object/gift/action as part of the recipient but the giver too has become part of the recipient.
It is just fitting for us to say thank you to people around us; to be grateful to the people who have been part of our journey. And so please take time to express your gratitude to your friends and classmates, to your teachers and friends, to your parents and siblings, cousins and other relatives, and of course to God the source of all blessings.
Now, as we will be welcoming new year, there might be a new environment to explore, new people to meet and encounter, new experiences to behold, new realizations and discoveries that will mold us, and mistakes and failures that will teach us lessons.
As we go forward, I invite you that we remember always to have an attitude of gratefulness, of just being thankful as a person. So, if I would ask you, “With all the pains and joys, successes and failures, sins and graces of the past year 2019, how grateful am I? How grateful are you now?”
Gratefulness makes us see what surrounds us, both the good and the bad. Gratefulness allows us to be embracing and accepting of the things and people around us. It is when we are grateful too that we become joyful persons and will tend to see the goodness and uniqueness of others.
Through this joy within us, we also become aware of God’s tremendous generosity to us despite our weaknesses and sins. And when we become joyful, we also become generous of ourselves towards the people around us, no matter who they are, whether they are our friends or strangers.
However, if our heart is ungrateful, bitter and complaining, then, we become close-minded, rejecting, and even vicious in the way we relate others and with God.
We might find ourselves also worrying and becoming anxious of personal struggles such as our failures and unfulfilled desires, or the overwhelming loads of our work and business, or the issues that our relationships are facing today, or the great demands that your family life is requiring you to do, or the illness of a loved one that pains you. When we let these one or more issues to overwhelm us, then, we will certainly become disturbed.
When complaining and bitterness becomes an attitude or a habit, we are very difficult to live with. When we become like this, we tend to be negative with what surround us. We also tend to see what is ugly and imperfect. We become sensitive to failures and mistakes, with ourselves and with others. And because we seemed to seek perfection, then, we are also difficult to satisfy.
This has been my experience this year. I have realized that I have become rejecting, complaining and bitter. Early this year, I was very excited to be transferred from my previous assignment in Iloilo to another place. I have planned on what to do in my next assignment. I have longed for it and prepared myself for it. But then, a day before I was supposed to bring my things for my new assignment, I was told that something has changed. I was re-assigned to a different place in order to fill up an empty position. And so here I am in Davao, the least of the areas that I wanted to be assigned. Deep inside, I was rejecting this assignment. In my first months, I was restless and always felt bored. I did not see any reason for being here. I was not happy. I had a heavy and resisting heart.
Moreover, the night before my flight for Davao to take over my assignment, my father died. I felt guilty and in pain for not being able to embrace papa and to assure him that I love him while he was still alive. My flight to my next assignment was very painful. I could not stop but cry during that flight.
I asked God why would he be so ungenerous this time for not extending the life of papa even for few days. I asked God, but it seemed that he did not listen to me that time. I was hurt and so questioned him in my heart.
All of these clouded my heart and rather turned ungrateful and bitter. I have realized that when we become ungrateful we also take for granted the giver of gifts, and thus, the presence of God in our life and we refuse to recognize that everything we have is a gift.
Moreover, I have come to realize also that God has been so good to me despite my ingratitude. My present assignment is after all a blessing in disguise. Being here allowed me to be near my family and to be with them especially in times of our grief for losing papa.
Thus, God calls us today to be more grateful of the gifts and blessings that we have received each day, no matter how small would that be. But if we have received so much also, be more thankful and be more generous. Remember, a grateful person is a person who goes forward, because when we are grateful we also become contented of the present, whatever there is. We also become reconciled with the past, whatever that was. And we become hopeful and positive of the future, whatever there will be.
So, may I ask you again, What are the gifts/blessings that you are grateful for?
I want you to recognize individually your gifts/blessings that you have received. Remember, gifts/graces/blessings are not just limited with material things but also people or relationships, events and experiences in your life. So, as an exercise, I want you now to count your blessings in 60 seconds. Are you ready?
60 seconds countdown.
God visits us in surprising ways. And God’s visit will bring us blessings. Thus, it is also important that we remain welcoming and accepting of God’s surprises for us. God may also may visit us not just through strangers but also though ordinary people or even those to whom we are familiar with. This is the story that we have heard in the Gospel today.
There are two visits that we can find in the Gospel, first, God’s visit upon his people. Jesus was born in a family of Mary and Joseph. God is telling us that he dwells in our families. The second visit is the shepherds visiting God. The shepherds have visited Jesus, Mary and Joseph and what they found was great joy. Despite the difficulty of their life, they have seen how God has shown his faithfulness and love to them.
It is only rightful also that as we hope for more blessings to come in this New Year, let this Solemnity of Mary’s motherhood be a reminder to each of us. God has already blessed us with good things and plenty, let us be grateful then. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR