In 2014, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter to All Consecrated People on the Occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life. In that letter, he invited them to do three things during that year:
- Look to the past with gratitude
- Live the present with passion
- Embrace the future with hope
The Holy Father seems to have been inspired by something one of his predecessors, Pope St. John Paul II, had said during his Pontificate at the conclusion of the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, when he wrote:
Duc in altum! These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever”(Heb 13:8). (Novo millennio ineunte, 1)
I find that threefold approach to the Christian life a beautiful and simple summary of how each of us should live each day. As we begin a new liturgical year together, I would like to look at these three points over the next three bulletin articles. Not only do they apply well to our lives in general as Christians, but I think they also help us to live this season of Advent in a more fruitful way.
We therefore begin by looking to the past with gratitude. In particular, we look at this past year in our lives and in our parish. Our human tendency is to think first of the negative things that have happened. Some of us has lost loved ones. Some of us have experienced suffering in some fashion. Perhaps some of us have lost our jobs, or maybe a relationship with somebody close to us has been damaged. Ok, that may be the case, but let us start with gratitude. Where has the Lord blessed you this past year? Some of you may have welcomed new members to your family with the birth of a child or a grandchild. Perhaps you have welcomed a new member to your family through marriage. Some of you may have started new jobs. Perhaps you accomplished something of which you are very proud. With regards to our faith, consider how many times you have been fed with the Bread of Life in the Eucharist, or how you experienced the freedom that comes from receiving Christ’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we take the time to intentionally look back over the last year, I am certain each of us can find something for which to be grateful. Even if you struggle to identify your blessings, our faith reminds us of something beautiful: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) We can therefore thank God for everything He has allowed to happen to us, even those hard things, for God can and does use all of them for our good, despite our understanding how He is doing so.
As we have just celebrated Thanksgiving this past Thursday, may that spirit of gratitude carry us into this new year of grace, trusting that the Lord who has been so good and generous to us over the past year will continue to bless us in the year ahead.