Dear People of Saint Thomas,
What makes a new year, “new?” Can it be done with resolutions? Is it really a question of human resolve? If that were the case, the world would be a lot “newer” than it is. Instead, we often have the sense that another year brings a rerun of the same old “Same Old.” Christian faith asserts that only God can make something truly new. Saint John, in his visions of heaven, records what he heard God saying:
The One who sat on the throne said to me: See, I make all things new. Revelation 21:5
How does God do this? Well, nothing is going to be new in the human world unless something is made new in the human heart. Like it or not, we are the door that either opens on to a new world or remains barred against it. In pursuit of a new world Christian faith tells us that we must first address the human heart. If nothing changes in us, nothing will change in the world around us. Saint Paul writes:
You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s images, whose justice andholiness are born of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24
But again, how? How do you do this? A new woman or man is born of prayer. Prayer is the key that opens the door to a new year, to a new world. The Bible gives us this petition to bring before God:
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. Psalm 51:12,14
I ended my Christmas meditation last week by saying: “In the wide screen view of the Faith, the redeeming Word rushes forward to meet your life and mine. He offers us the same gift he offered to those he encountered when he first came: freedom from bondage and regeneration to a life lived boldly in the service of the redemption of our fellow human beings and the healing of our world. He offers us communion with God and a life inspired daily by God’s Spirit.” Receiving this inspiration in prayer, and acting upon it as it urges us to do, we become Children of God: instruments of His redeeming grace.
It will be a new year if you are a new woman or man. You will be a new woman or man if you are praying in Spirit and Truth. If you are receptive in prayer, God will ceaselessly inspire you to all things new: new acts of reconciliation, new acts of charity, new words of hope and encouragement for others, new acts of justice that restore things to right-relationship. These are the things that usher in a new world. All things new are born of prayer.
Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth. Psalm 104:30