Today, the day after New Year’s Day, I considered the curious tradition of resolutions. I had not made any New Year’s resolutions this year, 2011.
This morning Saint Peter’s altar was aflame with red poinsettias. The crèche holding the promised Christ Child nestled in a bed of greenery on the Gospel side to the right of the altar. The Advent wreath and four candles had been removed Christmas Eve. We no longer wait for the coming of the Christ, but celebrate his birth during the twelve days of Christmastide.
We celebrate the Word made flesh, the coming of God into our world, becoming one of us. And with his coming comes his judgment. As Christians we examine our lives to see what we have left undone, and what we have done that we should not have done. We look at the Ten Commandments, the Sins and the Virtues. Have we measured up? Have we loved enough? We confess those failings, are forgiven, and, having seen ourselves a little more clearly, we strive to change. We call this repentance, penitence.
Once a year many folks in our culture take stock as well on New Year’s Eve or Day, a hopeful vestige of this Judeo-Christian heritage of self-examination, of confession before God. But the Christian does this daily, or at least weekly before the altar, or tries to. The Christian is continually resolving, repenting, turning away from sin and toward God.
So my resolutions are many and ongoing and not confined to New Year’s, for each morning is new, each evening a time for reflection, resolving. I know a man who prays without ceasing, and for him his resolving must be minute to minute, living in the presence of God, as God continually remakes him.
This morning I gazed at the faces of the acolytes and clergy moving about the altar. I know their names, and each person moved with his own characteristic style and grace. Each face was etched differently, each unique with its own joys and sorrows, its own history of love and unlove. I looked over the faithful kneeling in the pews and recognized their profiles, the way they held themselves. I knew them and they knew me. At least most of them.
In the reading for today, Jesus reads publicly from the Scriptures in the Nazareth synagogue. In this passage he announces who he is, the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior. Jesus of Nazareth, about thirty years old at this time, must have gazed at each of them, knowing them, loving them, seeing them. But they did not know him.
I saw a movie a few months ago, a children’s fantasy, in which the inhabitants of an other-worldly world greeted each other with the phrase, “I see you.” Those words have settled into my memory, for this is what we all desire. We want others to see us. We want to be known. We want to be loved.
I have learned in my life of sixty-three years that God does this with each of us, through Christ, through prayer, through the Mass. He sees us. I looked at the faces around the altar this morning, and I saw them. They were so very beautiful, each one.
And I added a prayer to my mountain of requests for change, for repentance and forgiveness. Lord, teach me to see. Teach me to honor and respect each person, each individual you have made, to overlook no-one. Lord, open my eyes to your creation.
I had a New Year’s resolution after all.