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As a natural worrier, I find it odd how people spend big bucks on New Year's parties despite having no job security for the upcoming year and loads of credit card debt from Christmas overspending.
Today, I checked my bank account. Despite a good amount in savings, my total earned interest on this account was only 10 cents. Even with more than most as a buffer, I can't fathom why someone would squander money frivolously on a party that lasts a couple of hours.
Another oddity is making New Year's resolutions. At a party years ago, a coworker, a bit too intoxicated, made wild promises about giving up drinking. The following Friday evening, he asked me to join him at the local watering hole, completely forgetting his resolution!
Sadly, most New Year's resolutions end up like this: made in good faith but soon forgotten without God's grace and aid.
As this New Year begins, I am far from morose and find much to be hopeful about. My hope is not based on politicians' promises or fail-safe economic schemes but on the Lord and His promises.
Jesus promises eternal life to those who believe in Him and keep His commandments. As our Lord said in Matthew's Gospel, "Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24–25).
For us believers, hope must not be based on anything ephemeral but on the permanent and eternal. God made us His sons and daughters with eternal souls. The destiny of our souls is pivotal, and a man who keeps this in mind, basing his conduct on it, is indeed blessed.
So in this new year, even if your job is in the toilet and your personal crosses seem unbearable, don't fret; have hope! Our Lord has promised eternal life to those who believe in Him. For us disciples, what matters most is being in a state of grace. Upon your death, God doesn't care about your bank account; His only concern is your soul. Only unforgiven sins can, in the end, separate us from Christ and eternal life. (Hint: If you haven't been to confession in the last month, now is the perfect time!)
Another promise Jesus made is abundant rewards in this life and in eternal life. In Mark's Gospel, Jesus says, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or family for My sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses, family, lands, with persecutions and eternal life in the age to come" (Mark 10:28–30).
Peter, during his apostolic travels, would come to know the truth of this promise. He stayed in many homes, made many new brothers and sisters and faced persecution as he established the Church.
Our Lord reminds us not to lament what we give up to be His disciples. Fulfilling His call brings rewards beyond telling.
As a priest for many years, I have been blessed with numerous close friends, followers of Christ, as close to me as my own siblings. At times, we face persecution, but it reminds us we're walking in Christ's footsteps.
One last promise seldom talked about is Jesus' promise to give His disciples His own joy. In John's Gospel, Jesus says,
As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment: Love one another as I love you (John 15:9–11).
As disciples, it's easy to fall into a routine of practicing the Faith devoutly but monotonously, with no joy. I don't believe for a second that our Lord never shared a joke with the Apostles or never laughed!
There are many gospel passages where Jesus shows His lighter side, calling James and John "sons of thunder" or renaming Simon as Peter, which means "rock." Did Jesus call Peter the rock just because he was steadfast, or was it also a little humorous jab at Peter's stubbornness?
As we enter the new year, remember that daily struggles are transitory and will pass. Keep Christ's promises at the forefront. Our Lord promised eternal life as well as joy and rewards in this life.
Let's welcome 2024 with a real and certain hope that, in Christ, all things will be made new!