DC Archbishop Gregory on Catholic importance of New Year’s Day

Wilton Gregory
FILE – This Sunday, June 2, 2019, file photo shows D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory posed for a portrait following mass at St. Augustine Church in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

The archbishop of Washington asked Catholics in the D.C. area to keep in mind the religious importance of New Year’s Day.

“Too many Catholics are unaware that Jan. 1 is also in fact a solemn holy day,” said Wilton Cardinal Gregory at Friday’s Holy Mass for 2021 Solemnity of Mary, held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.

Just as Mary reflected on the birth of Jesus eight days after his birth, the first day of the year is a day for Catholics to reflect.

“To reflect on the events of the passing year, and what a year it was,” Gregory said during mass. “Most of us have great hope for the new year ahead. Mary also invites us to give thanks for the gifts that we enjoyed in the year behind us.”

But true reflection does not come easy, he added.

“Such reflection takes time and effort. Reflecting on something means looking for its deeper and inner meaning In our fast-paced world. Most of us don’t have a lot of time reflectively to consider life,” Gregory said.

He recommended reflecting not only on personal events, but also the broader reaches of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, as well as legislation and governmental action.

“How does resuming the imposition of the death penalty ensure justice?” Gregory asked. “Are we just becoming a more violent society?”

He also voiced his concerns for legislation allowing abortion, euthanasia and biogenetic engineering.

Here are Cardinal Gregory’s full remarks during Holy Mass for 2021:

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Only a few short hours ago, the people of the United States of America finished the course of welcoming another calendar year.

Soon, it will be 2021 throughout the entire world, as the last island kingdoms in the far-flung Pacific enter the new year.

Some of you may have celebrated that transitional moment here in the DMV with a few friends and family, probably more subdued than years past. Some of you, like me, were perhaps not awake as December became January, as Thursday became Friday, and as 2020 became 2021.

Unfortunately, a lot of people simply do not equate New Year’s Day with any special religious festival. Too many Catholics are unaware that January 1 is also in fact a solemn holy day. It is the last day of the Christmas octave. The person of Mary graces the dawn of each new year. The mother of Jesus stands silently at the opening of the new year, like every proud mother, just basking at the image of her newborn son. She even now reflects on the wonder of his birth in her heart.

However, Mary also reflects on the events of the past and those of the future in the life of the church. Even this local church, comprised by the District and our Maryland counties.

The close of the old year invites many of us to reflect on the events of the passing year. And what a year it was. Most of us have great hope for the new year ahead.

Mary also invites us to give thanks for the gifts that we enjoyed in the year behind us.

Most newspapers and magazines highlight the more noteworthy occurrences of the departing year. Some of them try to rank them according to some degree of importance. These invite us to reflect on the things of the recent past.

Saint Luke uses the word “reflect” to describe Mary’s thoughtful possession of the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Such reflection takes time and effort. Reflecting on something means looking for its deeper and inner meaning. In our fast-paced world, most of us don’t have a lot of time reflectively to consider life. We are so rushed that many events occur and we do not consider their deeper and perhaps hidden meaning.

Reflect with me, if you will, on some of the things that have happened in our recent past that have had a profound impact on our world, on us personally. The pandemic was, of course, the principle pressure on all of our lives. Our world economy is now deeply troubled because of the impact of COVID-19. Our economic woes cast an imposing shadow of downheartedness, doubt and insecurity over the lives of far too many people.

The plight of our immigrant neighbors is a serious matter that continues to demand both honesty and mercy.

How does resuming the imposition of the death penalty ensure justice? Are we just becoming a more violent society?

Hasn’t life itself been devalued and cheapened by our laws that authorize abortion, euthanasia and human biogenetic activities, where the end is said to justify the means?

Ponder those things in prayer in quiet with faith.

Reflecting allows us to find deeper meaning than merely witnessing an event in social media or on the broadcast news.

The solemn feast of Mary, mother of God, stands at the head of the new year as a reminder of her unique place in the life of the church. Who would question the importance of a mother in any of our lives? A mother greets each one of us at the dawn of our life. How fitting for the first day of the new year to be dedicated to the mother of God, the mother of the church. She had reflected on the remarkable occurrences that celebrated the birth of her son. Perhaps that is why she was prepared to stand with him at the foot of his cross.

Reflecting helps all of us to prepare to grasp the really important events in life and to see and to understand their deepest meaning. We should all reflect more frequently during this coming new year.

Peace and good fortune and good health to each of you, my dearest friends. May 2021 bring a stretch of happiness, good health and joy for each one of you. And, my dearest brothers and sisters, may 2021 be a season of hope and peace and joy for you and all of your loved ones, from its opening moments to its very last.

Amen.

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