1st of January – New year’s homily

2019 year c

This feast on the first day of the calendar year and the octave of Christmas was for centuries celebrated as the circumcision. The reform of the liturgy in the 1960s revived a very ancient tradition of celebrating it as the feast of the Mother of God. It was in fact, the very first feast established in honour of Mary and had fallen in neglect as other Marian feasts sprang up. The beautiful and equally ancient collect gives the sense of the re-established feast: God's gift of live channelled to us to us through Mary in the person of her Son and continuing to be channelled to us through her powerful intercession. In this sense, it is fitting celebration to mark the beginning of a new year and the promise of life that it holds out.

In his message for today, the 52nd World Day of Peace, Pope Francis recalls the words of Jesus to His disciples as He sent them out on mission.  Jesus told them, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’”  At the start of this New Year, Pope Francis makes this greeting his own.  The Holy Father wishes that we might find true peace in three ways: peace with ourselves, peace with others, and peace with all creation.

Pope Francis entitles his New Year message: “Good politics is at the service of peace”.  “Peace”, he says “is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations”.  “Good politics” respects and promotes fundamental human rights.  Those holding political office and political responsibility in any country should therefore “make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future”.  They should exercise their politics “with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons”.

According to Bishop Martin of Ireland, recent circumstances in many parts of the world (Africa, Europe, America and all the continents) have led many people to become disheartened with politics and with politicians.  Still, it is important to pray that all politicians will work at the service of peace.  Politics is a noble vocation, and those who answer the call to public service often have to make great sacrifices in their personal and family life.  We depend on our politicians to protect life and to build peace, to make just laws that enable us, our families, and the wider community to live good and constructive lives.  We need them to lead and govern us, to work for the common good, to enable everyone to live in security and hope.  In particular, politicians must speak and work for the voiceless, supporting the poor and disadvantaged, the homeless, migrants and the most vulnerable – even though doing so may not always win them popularity or votes.

He suggests that in addition to praying for our politicians, it is important that people actively contribute to public discourse.  People of faith are called to bring to these discussions their conviction that the teaching and Gospel of Jesus Christ have consequences for every aspect of our lives.

On a day like this, is good to point to the danger of increased community polarisation on account of the Brexit debate and the political impasse at Stormont.  We are calling on our politicians to make a real difference as we enter 2019 and to help restore a sense of hope.  We feel that with ongoing political and economic uncertainty, “many businesses here are fearing for the future, while many families, struggling to make ends meet today, are anxious about what that future might hold”.  Added to this, the lack of a functioning devolved governments or its total absence in distressed countries of the world concerns us.  In Nigerian, for instance, the Biafran people with huge population have yearned for years, for self determination. They have fought for it. They have campaigned for it and in fact, they have done everything humanly possible to let the world know their agony and pain in the Nigerian state, but nobody has heeded them. Generations of biafrans have died in this struggle. The total indifference from world politicians over this, is totally inexplicable.  Such inaction and wickedness “not only drains hope from our society, but also has meant an ever increasing pressure on people and systems.  As so often happens, it is the vulnerable and the marginalised that suffer most and they should be at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers as we enter into a new year”.

I challenge all our politicians in the coming challenging months and in this year to beware of the temptation to retreat into partisanship and discrimination as in the case of Nigeria and other developing nations.  Many of our politicians and their predecessors have played their part in creating a more peaceful and more prosperous society here over the past  years.  On this World Day of Peace we ask all our public representatives to make a resolution to reject divisive language and actions at all times.  The progress made over the past several years are fragile and should be handled with care.  There lots of violence, death, and disaffection out there  on our streets of most nations today. People are not happy. People are thoroughly disappointed by their politicians

Having just marked the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to remember that the principle of the inviolability of innocent human life is the most fundamental of all moral principles.  It is the basis upon which every human right we enjoy as persons is predicated.  This is not only a religious doctrine, but a universal human value, rooted in human nature itself, upon which our very freedom and dignity as a person rests.  Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are also internationally agreed human rights

As we begin this new year, I invite you to pray regularly, and to keep working hard to get better. Cardinal John Henry Newman tells us that to grow is the change and to have grown is to have changed many times. Each of us has a mission to fulfil or carry out in this word. Go out and discover your own mission and try to fulfil them. According to Cardinal Newman, our mission is as important to us as that of an Angel is to him. Let us pray and consecrate ourselves to the heart of Mary the Mother of God.

- By Fr. Innocent Abonyi, MSP

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