New Year’s Day – 2021
It’s a new civic year, an opportunity to start over in some areas of life. We have already entered the new liturgical year, and have returned to Advent and Christmas and the hope they offer our world. We have been reminded of the possibilities that are offered in the birth of an innocent baby in Bethlehem.
Both the civic and Church beginnings provide a chance to appropriate a new way of living and acting in our personal milieu – in our unique life, in family or community, in civic life and work, in politics, and so on.
I doubt that anyone wants 2020 to go on a minute longer than necessary. Who among us realized what we were in for on January 1 last year!
There were some professionals who saw the pandemic coming. 2021 starts with the positive news of the vaccine. This year will offer a chance to watch it spread throughout the world, but with more positive energy than the spread of COVID.
This day calls to mind several things for our Church. Primarily, it is the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. It continues to be Christmas time. It’s the annual commemoration of World Day of Peace. And, of course, for this culture, it is New Year’s Day.
Starting with Saint Paul VI in 1967, World Day of Peace is marked each January 1. Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have each continued the tradition. Each year has included a special message from the Holy Father.
The hope is that all people will reflect on the importance of building a world of peace. It’s a document that offers good spiritual reading for individuals, parish groups and other faith communities.
The message for 2021 has the theme Good politics is at the service of peace. Pope Francis opens his message with the words Jesus offers to his disciples in sending them on mission: Peace be to this house! Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ and his followers, whether it be the historical world of Jesus or 21st century Canada.
Francis reminds us that political leadership is an essential means of building human community and institutions, of service to society as a whole. But we know many political figures can become a means to oppression, marginalization and destruction.
Francis offers a few human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty and fidelity. It strikes me that this list is a good way to evaluate our leaders, not just in politics, but church and the workplace and just about every aspect of life when someone is in leadership.
He also does a great job of detailing the vices of leadership. That list may also serve as a good evaluation tool for certain elected officials and those who just take over a nation.
Referring to our contemporary situation, Francis suggests that, today more than ever, our societies need artisans of peace who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God. The Pope has much more to say. As usual, he ends with Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and her example of the politics of peace, as evidenced in her Magnificat.
We begin a new year. We have new opportunities. Let’s pray at the beginning of this year for all women and men who put themselves forward for service, that they may realize what Pope Francis says about good politics being at the service of peace.