By ARCHBISHOP EAMON MARTIN: The bells ringing out the old year and ringing in the New Year remind us of how quickly time passes. Even since this time last year all our lives have changed in one way or another: we’ve seen new faces and places, met new challenges, embraced new opportunities, encountered new problems. The turn of the year brings with it a mixture of sadness and hope, memories and dreams, regrets and resolutions. Some people won’t be sorry to leave 2014 behind; others will face the New Year with uncertainty in terms of family, health, relationships and financial pressures. They ask: will 2015 be a good year?
At Masses on New Year’s Day the beautiful Blessing of Aaron from the Book of Numbers is read. Although it is two and a half thousand years old, its verses invoke a timeless message which is perfect for today:
‘May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace (Numbers 6:22-27).’
To begin the New Year blessed by the presence of God is to hold on to hope, courage and trust even when we might be inclined to fret, fear or be anxious about the future. Our resolutions to change or do better are born out of the conviction that a fresh start is always possible and that conversion is achievable and good for us. Faith in God’s presence enables us to say: 2015 will be a better year. With the Lord’s face shining upon us in 2015 we can be more present to each moment, each person, every cry for help, every gifted opportunity that awaits us; every day, every hour, every moment can be truly blessed by the love and presence of God.
During the Christmas season many of us have had the opportunity to be with family, to spend time in worship and to reach out in charity to those less fortunate than ourselves. Might these Christmas instincts inspire our resolutions for the year ahead – to spend more time with family and friends; to build our friendship with God; to reach out to the marginalised?
In his message for New Year’s Day – the World Day of Peace – Pope Francis places before us the cruel facts of modern day slavery: that millions of children, women and men throughout the world are deprived of their freedom and forced to live in conditions akin to slavery. He speaks with bluntness about the greed and corruption which preys upon the dignity of our fellow human beings who are ‘trafficked’ from place to place and mistreated as objects for exploitation and prostitution. Many of them, because of extreme poverty and helplessness, get caught up into a vicious circle, accepting roles and situations that are beneath their human dignity. And sadly, because of selfishness and global indifference, we can easily remain blind and ignorant of their plight – perhaps even tacitly complicit.
A new year’s resolution for Ireland, North and South, might be to raise awareness and do what we can to tackle the global scandal of human trafficking. We might ask questions of ourselves and our public representatives: where is trafficking happening in this country? What are we doing to make Ireland the land of one thousand welcomes and a cold place for human traffickers? Clearly trafficking is a problem to be addressed both nationally and internationally. It begins, however, with personal and public awareness of what trafficking is, and how it can be prevented.
Aaron’s blessing prays that the Lord may bless us and keep us all safe in his care. If at the end of 2015, some vulnerable trafficking victims feel “no longer slaves, but our brothers and sisters (Phil 15-16)”, then we will be able to say: it has been a very good year!
Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Peace, Pray for us.