Right before Christmas, Pope Francis gave an address during his Sunday Angelus about how we should be preparing for the coming of the Lord. His advice was threefold: through constant joy, through persevering in prayer and through continual thanksgiving.
We should remain joyful, as St. Paul tells us (“Rejoice always!”), even when things aren’t going our way. “Anxieties, difficulties and sufferings permeate our lives, and so many times the reality around us seems to be inhospitable and arid,” he said. But do not fear: Jesus is on his way!
The foundation of this joy, of course, is prayer.
“Through prayer we can enter into a stable relationship with God, who is the source of true joy,” he said. “The joy of the Christian comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness. The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we find inner serenity, even in the midst of everyday contradictions.
“That is why the Christian, having met Jesus, cannot be a prophet of misfortune, but a witness and a herald of joy,” he added. “A joy to share with others; a contagious joy that makes life’s journey less tiring.”
And finally, in all things we should give thanks.
God “is indeed very generous with us, and we are invited to always recognize his gifts, his merciful love, his patience and goodness, thus living in an endless state of thanksgiving,” the pope said.
As we prepare to flip the calendar to a brand new year, it occurred to me that while maintaining a joyful attitude, a strong prayer life and a grateful nature are indeed how we should prepare to welcome the Christ Child into our hearts, it is also an excellent recipe for daily Christian living — especially as we wipe the slate clean and enter into 2018.
We are in a season of making resolutions, which, let’s face it, most of the time we aren’t that great about keeping. But perhaps we — myself included — could set aside grand plans based in vanity or materialism and rather commit to these simple resolutions of being a bit more joyful, to praying a few minutes more a day and to turning our grumbling into gratitude.
But there’s one last piece, as Pope Francis reminds us.
“In this last part of Advent, we entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary,” he said. “She is ‘the cause of our joy,’ not only because she is the Mother of Jesus, but because she continually leads us to him.”
The same is true for the start of the new year. Jan. 1 is the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and as such, it is a fitting time to entrust our resolutions, and indeed our very lives, to her care. May she be with each of us as we prepare for a fresh start with a deeper resolve to be people of joy, prayer and gratitude. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Happy New Year!