Fr. Britto's Blog

Grateful and Hopeful

Christmas is over and we are completing the first full week of the new year. As we move forward, our hearts are filled with questions: What will this year be like? Will it be better than the last one? How should I enter into this new chunk of time that God gives me? What attitudes should I bring?

Celebrating the coming of the new year is a recent practice. About 4,000 years ago, the Babylonians celebrated it in the spring (March 23rd) because it marked the beginning of the planting season. The Romans adopted the same idea. However, in 46 BC, Julius Caesar moved it to the 1st of January. It was the celebration of the Roman god, Janus, who had two faces: one looking backward to the past year and the other looking forward to the New Year. The celebrations were marked by revelry and a lot of drinking. Has anything really changed?

The Church told Christians to desist from revelry. In fact in one of his sermons, St Augustine, who had already had all the fun he could handle, asked the Christians to give alms instead of gifts, open their hearts to God instead of singing ribald songs, go to church to pray instead of going to the theater, and fast instead of getting drunk. About the seventh century, the Roman Church began celebrating this day in honor of the Mother of God just as the Eastern Church did. In the reorganization of the calendar in 1969 this day became a solemnity.

By placing the new year under the patronage of Mary, the Mother of God, the Church is inviting us to follow her example in the way we live the new year. When we read the accounts of the early life of Jesus, we find that Luke describes Mary’s reaction to the events surrounding Jesus’ birth in these words: “Mary kept all these things in her heart and pondered over them.” In other words, Mary was taking it all in. She was being mindful and her mindfulness gave birth to two things: gratitude and hope.

Mary’s gratitude is evident in her canticle, the Magnificat. Reflecting on the workings of grace in her life, Mary sings, “He has done great things for me, Holy is His name.” Even though Luke places Mary’s hymn of thanksgiving at the beginning of the gospel, I submit that she sang it many times in her life, especially at the end. Looking back, she was filled with gratitude because the Lord Who called her walked by her side even to the heights of Calvary.

Her hopefulness sprang not from her unique vocation but from the Word of God. Archangel Gabriel said to her, “Nothing is impossible for God.” If God can bring life from the barren womb of Elizabeth, He can certainly unite virginity and motherhood in Mary. She never doubted God’s promise. She held on to it even when things did not make sense – whether in the stable at Bethlehem or in their hurried flight to Egypt or on the way to Calvary or at the foot of the Cross. She continued to bow her head in obedience because her hope was constantly nurtured by God’s fidelity.

As we traverse 2021, let us be mindful of God’s presence and action in our lives. Once we “treasure all these things in our hearts” and ponder them, we will find gratitude and hope. First of all, we need to be grateful for all the blessings we received last year. Among those blessings we must include also the hard lessons that 2020 taught us. Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through dark times and makes us grow through them. He teaches us lessons that we would not learn otherwise. For instance, He taught us how trust in Him is crucial. During the pandemic, we realized that we were not in control and that we had to rely on His protection. He made us realize that we need to depend on each other. He made us aware that family and friends are the most important.

Second, we need to hold on to hope. Hope is the dynamism of faith; it is faith in action. If I truly believe that our God is with us, that He is Emmanuel, then our hope never dies. Just like Mary who held on to the angel’s words, “Nothing is impossible for God,” we maintain our optimism even in the midst of life’s setbacks and struggles. We demonstrate our hopeful demeanor especially when the going looks hopeless.

Perhaps we can draw inspiration from the example of one of our greatest Presidents, Ronald Reagan. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he wrote an open letter to all Americans. Let me share a few words from that letter:

At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life’s journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors with my friends and supporters.

 In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I pray that this year will be for all of us a time of continual gratitude and undying hope. God bless you!

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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