The timing of this secular event doesn’t match exactly with our Catholic liturgical cycle. Advent marks the beginning of the Church year, but the first Sunday of Advent comes six weeks before New Year’s Day. However, as today’s readings remind me, we are still in the season of reflecting on what the next year will bring on a secular basis and what my actions portend for me on a spiritual level.
John’s letter reminds his readers that we live in “the last hour” (New Year’s Eve) and that we are drawn in our daily lives to move in many directions, not all of them good for us. For me, this reminder that we are in a “last hour” invites reflection on where I am at this moment, and what paths I have followed in the past year. When I do I can see that I haven’t always done what I set out to do a year ago, I haven’t always stayed on the road I intended to take. It isn’t always easy to recognize the “many antichrists” that surround me, and I am confident I am guilty of unintentionally following some of them in the past. But being aware of where I have strayed from the road I want to travel is one message I take from this epistle.
John’s gospel dovetails nicely with the epistle – tomorrow (New Year’s Day) is a new beginning and in that beginning is Jesus, who has been in God since the beginning. So as I reflect on the mis-directions (the “antichrists”) I have followed in the past, I can plan mid-course corrections by renewing my focus on following the teachings of Jesus in the coming year.
I really like this psalm and the songs that have been written and sung from its verses. But as I reflect on it in the context of the other two readings, I find myself asking if any of us ever sings a “new” song. Once we gain our voice, once we start to sing, it seems to me that each song we utter has pieces of all the songs we have sung before. Each note we chant carries with it the history of all the notes that preceded it. Our voices are a sum total of all our melodies. And so, it seems to me that as I make plans, however well-intentioned and focused they may be, for the next year, they are based on where I am now, and all the plans I have made, the notes I have sung, in the past. I might be singing a “new” song in 2012, but my voice has been shaped for the last 62 years. I can’t change my history, and I can’t change where I have strayed from the right path on my journey. But as I sing my 2012 song, I can try to be aware of the distractions in the singing, the times when I have hit bumps that have thrown me off-melody, and I can try to re-arrange my notes into a newer song by watching more carefully for those distractions. When I have sung in choral settings, I always find I do better when I pay close attention to the director and the score and not let myself be distracted by the sights and sounds around me. What better direction can I have than the example of Jesus!
And so my prayer today is for the grace to be more aware of the times in my recent past when I have strayed from singing the song I am called to make, to have the strength to keep my voice focused on the melody I am called today to sing, and to strengthen my resolve to follow the score of my choral director, Jesus, as it is revealed to me.
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