Walking with Faith into an Unknown New Year

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By Sister Carolyn McWatters

New Year’s Day. For those of us in the States, this day has traditionally been a time for making resolutions—commitments to shake off some bad habits and/or choose some things that will make ourselves or our world better. We make our lists and set our sights. I admit to having a pitiful history of choosing these new year’s resolutions. When I do, I find they are quickly forgotten, and life goes on as usual.

But this year is different. This year begins like no other in our memory. We find ourselves in the middle of a horrifying pandemic that has affected the world community in unparalleled ways. Island nations and seaside areas have been ravaged by unprecedented climate events. Racism has reared its ugly head in an appalling and breath-taking onslaught of hatred and violence. The U.S. has experienced a fractious four years of political turmoil. The global community is in the grips of deep pain and suffering, and has been thrown off balance in so many ways.

What are we to make of all of this upheaval? As people of faith and sisters and brothers of Catherine, what do we hear God saying to us in the midst of all this suffering and confusion and unknown? To what are we called, as individuals and as an Institute?

In the face of all of this, life ought not, will not, cannot simply go on as usual.

Undoubtedly the events of this past year have yielded nuggets of wisdom for us. We have had to reach down deep into our souls and wrestle with meaning and purpose. We have been reminded of that which truly matters: the inherent value of every human life, the interconnectedness of the global community, the power of communal action for justice. 

If not as usual, how must our lives go on?

I am writing this in the middle of Advent. A recurring and comforting theme of our Advent Scriptures is that God has chosen us, possesses us and dwells with us forever. These Scriptures work to re-mind us of our belovedness, to re-center us on the path to Jesus, to re-focus our hearts to see the One who continually dwells in our midst. Coming back to this bedrock faith is what can restore our balance and renew our perspective.

As I begin this new year, I commit myself to reframing the question of resolution, from what I think I need to do to what God might be asking of me. I need to relish the comfort of Emmanuel, indeed, but I cannot simply rest there. Contemplation must move me to action. Centered in God, as Catherine admonished, I must be moving continually forward. The path of transformation depends on my resolute spirit, my desire to cooperate with God’s grace, my willingness to discern how I am called to respond to God’s ongoing invitations to greater love and action for justice.

One of my favorite hymns gives voice to a profound message for me:

My life goes on in endless song,
above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn,
that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

“How Can I Keep from Singing,” based on a hymn by Robert Wadsworth Lowry

Our lives must go on differently. Gifted as we are with Mercy vision, we must be the living signs to others of our belovedness, our being held and sustained by God. Our lives must sing the song of hope and restoration and possibility so that others may be encouraged and emboldened to walk with faith into the unknown. May we embrace our resolution with courage and joy.