When I was in formation for the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1990s, our priest director of formation would always greet us with the salutation Peace, Love, and Joy. It is in that spirit that I wish everyone a most blessed New Year as we begin another year on this fragile planet we call earth. Those three words - peace, love, and joy - are my wishes for this new year.
PEACE: Wouldn't it be the most wonderful thing in the world if during 2013 we could see peace return to this world. It is a prayer that has been on many lips and in many hearts but we cannot help but wonder if we will ever see the day when people can live in harmony. War is still being fought, peoples are still being enslaved or being oppressed by tyrannical governments, and day after day we hear and read about stories of abuse against women and most recently in my own country attacks on little children. Jesus came into this world to bring peace but many of us still need to learn about his message and bring that message to others. If we cared more about the needs of others rather than just our own, we might see the beginning of a glimmer of what could eventually become true peace. Remember that peace is not just the absence of war - it is an attitude of caring and concern for others.
LOVE: True peace can only be brought about when we understand what true love is. Again, love is not just a romantic notion only seen when two people "fall in love" and make plans to share their lives together - although this is certainly part of love. True love is when we care for the other even when things are not so romantic or when things are rough in our lives. It means caring for the other even when we are angry with each other. It also goes beyond the love between two people and reaches out to embrace all others - even those we may not particularly like, but being there for them in their need. It means caring for the poor and unfortunate in our society - the homeless, the abused, the abandoned. Government programs can certainly help these people but programs - whether governmental or private - must be laced through with a love for those being served. Jesus reached out to many during his ministry on earth and he loved them all - the blind, the leper, the sinful woman, etc. As disciples we must do the same.
JOY: Joy is not just feeling happy about something. True joy is a deep feeling of knowing that we are loved by our God even when we mess up. Joy is knowing that we can be of service to others. Joy is finding true satisfaction in the career of our choosing so that we can use our talents and skills to benefit others. Jesus brought joy into the lives of the many he touched but that joy did not mean that at times there would not be suffering - as he himself experienced. God does not want us to suffer but suffering is a part of the human condition and knowing that there will be an end to it sometime can give us the joy that we need to continue on.
My wish, then, for the new year for all are those three words: that your lives will be filled with peace, love, and joy. Happy New Year!