By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published January 1, 2009 | En Español
As we look back on 2008 in preparation for 2009, most of us participate in an annual ritual, which is the human tendency to attempt to rank the events that the year held in store for each one of us. What were the highlights and the disappointments of the past year and what are our expectations for the year that lies ahead?
Those nostalgic and reflective issues crowd this moment of transition. Because we are people of faith, I trust that those reflections will necessarily involve the changes that occurred in our relationship with the Lord Jesus and our connection with his church. Our relationship with Christ is usually mediated through our connection with his people.
For eight young men in this local Church, I pray that their new identity as priests for the people of God will rank as the most important transition moment in their lives in 2008. For 20 additional men and their families, their new service as deacons should also have been a life-changing moment.
I met a young couple at the conclusion of Christmas Midnight Mass whose marriage I had witnessed—and from their glow of happiness, the day of their wedding was the pivotal moment in 2008 for them. Then there are the countless youngsters who approached the Lord’s Table for the first time and experienced the mercy of Christ in the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time who will hopefully include those occasions with deep gratitude.
The people of Christ the King Parish will no doubt remember October 30 as an incredibly painful moment in their parish history as the Lord Jesus summoned Msgr. Tom Kenny suddenly to Himself. I pray that this same family will find the arrival of Father Frank McNamee as an anticipated highlight in 2009.
The same is true of all of the parishes that have lost familiar and beloved pastors and that now anxiously await welcoming new pastors. Loss and welcome were moments for many of our communities of faith. Families who faced the death or sickness of loved ones in 2008 will forever recall those moments of sorrow and confidence in the Lord’s Providence.
We take our relationships with others very seriously and these relationships remind us that we all belong to the Lord and to one another. As I flew to Chicago to visit my parents on Christmas Day, I traveled with a young family from St. Jude’s Parish. They were in route to visit their family in Chicago. Throughout the flight, I kept meditating on the fact that I was traveling with some of my faith family to visit my biological family—each family is a gift to me from God. Last Sunday as I was having a late breakfast at a Chicago café, I found myself seated in a booth next to another Atlanta family who had also journeyed to Chicago to be with their loved ones. We are related to the Lord through the bonds of baptism, and those same bonds unite us to one another. Our relationship with Christ necessarily unites us to each other.
As each one of you reflects on the events of 2008 and offers your prayers and hopes for the New Year of 2009, let us all ask the Father to strengthen our union with each other, no matter where we might be.
May 2009 be a year of grace and peace for each home and heart in this local Church. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church, watch over each one of us each day of the New Year.