Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Franciscan Benediction: A Hope for the New Year?

Happy New Year
Welcome 2019

Wow! Another new year full of hope and promise. What will it hold? More of the same? Something better? Hopefully not something worse. Here in my sixtieth year, with the big "R" of "retirement" starting to loom ever closer, I wonder about whether or not I can afford to start slowing down the career a bit. The joyous expectation of another grandchild on the near horizon will no doubt add a new blessing to the new year. With another new year we once again think and pray for our kids and their spouses, and their employment situations in these sometimes turbulent times. Likewise, with a recent serious illness of one of our close friends right before this past Christmas, we think of health for all our loved ones, both family and friends alike.

What will this new year hold?

While it's yet far too soon to know what the new year will hold, and in truth we cannot ever know what tomorrow holds, yet we can know Him who holds it. In other words, whatever 2019 holds for us, it is ultimately God alone who holds it and all its intricate details. Can we rest in that?

"Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visable for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self conceit. All such boasting is wrong. So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4: 13-17; Amplified)

So much for man-made resolutions. Maybe that is why they often fail; God is not necessarily in them. Sure, He may be, but He also may not be. Hmm. Yet despite the apparent dichotomy, I do want to resolve to try and do something in this new year. I would like to see 2019 become the year that I focus less on me and more on what God would like, and if it please Him, more of what He would like to do through me.

Years ago I came upon the following benediction (or blessing) attributed to Francis of Assisi. Recently I discovered it again when a friend shared it on social media. Perhaps therein lies our hope for the new year. May it speak to you as much as it did to me.
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May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live from deep within our hearts. 
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace. 
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. 
And may God bless us with just enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: to bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.
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Happy New Year, friends. Praying that 2019 may be a blessing to you and yours. Peace.

For more on Francis of Assisi, please see these posts as well: