For the first time in three years, I was able to celebrate Christmas and New Year in my native land. One of the advantages of coming home is going to our neighbourhood parish which is only a 7-minute walk from the house.
On Christmas day, the priest recounted an anecdote about the many traditions we hold in our families to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. One of the more common tradition we have is the giving of gifts. The priest told of his experience with his 5-year-old granddaughter who handed out the gifts to all the family members and then lingered around the tree. She looked under and over looking for something until the priest-grandfather asked, "What are you looking for?" the little girl answered "I'm looking for the gift for Jesus. It's His birthday." Dumbfounded, the priest held this in his heart until today - 10 years on. I heard this message.
Sometimes, we are so preoccupied about asking for gifts from above that we forget to give the gift we can to Jesus who lovingly gave His life for us. The priest continues to say what gift we could give to Him: FORGIVENESS.
The year 2016 was the Year of Mercy and all catholics were called to be merciful to one another.
This new year 2017 was declared the Year of Peace.
The priest in his homily speaks of our lack of contentment from the blessings we receive. We forget to have a treasuring heart or a thankful heart for all the blessings we receive because we concentrate on what is not there.
He goes on to tell a story of a grandmother who sat on the beach praying while watching over her grandson when a tsunami hit and the sea engulfed the boy. The grandmother admonished God saying "But I pray everyday, I say the novena. How can you do this to me? How can you take my grandson?" Then another tsunami hit and brought back the boy. She then said "He had a cap on when he left, now he doesn't."
The priest emphasized that we are often like that. Instead of being thankful for what is there, we look for what is not there.
Going back to the message of Christmas, we are called to give the gift of forgiveness to one another as a sign of mercy and testament of God's unconditional love to us. In this New Year we are called to take this mercy and to extend a hand of peace to our neighbour and to be instruments of God's peace and to have a treasuring heart. To have peace in our lives, we must have peace in ourselves. To have peace, we must be happy with what God has given us and to see the blessing in everything.
Aptly, the New Year's mass ended with the song "Let there be peace on earth" which ends "and let it begin with me".
So this new year, may we be instruments of peace in our daily lives, be it at work or at home.
Happy New Year to you and your family. May God bless you.