By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published December 23, 2014 | En Español
All of us would probably like to exit the year of 2014 with a bit of grace! During this final week that separates us from Christmas before the dawn of a new calendar year, most of us will do some pondering on the events of the past 12 months and, no doubt, we will entertain a few hopes for the coming year.
Each year, we mark the conclusion of the prior year with several time-honored activities. We will remember many of the prominent personalities who have died during the past year. We will engage in a retrospective musing on the events of the concluding year. This year, once again, we unfortunately must recall the awful acts of terror that have too frequently punctuated the departing year.
Even as I write this last 2014 column, I am afraid that prior to its publication, there may be more acts of violence that will occur before 2015 arrives.
No one wants to end the year on such a pessimistic note. We would all like to begin 2015 filled with the hope that the Birth of Christ has generated. I recall during my youth that even in the course of the Vietnam War, combatants often paused for a few hours in honor of the wonder that occurred in Bethlehem with the Nativity of Christ. People put down the instruments of war to acknowledge that the Prince of Peace had been born. Jesus’ entry into the world is a welcome pause from the hatred, the brutality and the carnage that too often reigns in our world. This year, we need the hope that Christmas brings to the world as never before.
The great and sorrowful moments of this year should not be the final thoughts that we have before we begin 2015. The cartoon figures of the bowed, haggard and tired old man departing and the baby wearing the banner of the New Year arriving may provide an image for the transition, but such images do not capture what we all long for with a new moment of life. The darkness of the many moments of sorrow, violence, hatred and brutality from 2014 cast a heavy shadow over our hearts. However, the bright Light of the birth of that Baby in Bethlehem illuminates even the darkness of our sinful world.
The diplomatic transformation that we learned of last week, which will begin a rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba, was substantially and directly influenced by Pope Francis. Many people may view it as a calculated risk, but such risks are necessary in order to enlighten our future. The national conversations that must now follow the awful events in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and Cleveland, Ohio, must gamble on the humanity of people of differing and strongly held points of view, but such a gamble is the only way of advancing our society.
The Mideast, Australia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico and a dozen other places on the globe must continue to wrestle with issues of justice, security, religious tolerance and poverty; not to engage in such activity is to allow the darkness of sin to endure without the light of grace.
Our own families and communities here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta face their own struggles of conflicts and anguish, but we too must face those challenges if healing and reconciliation are to replace separation and dread.
This moment of transition between yesterday and tomorrow is an opportunity of hope that even the greatest problems are not greater than God’s grace whether globally or within the confines of our own hearts and homes.
We all want to exit this year 2014 with a little grace—and the Newborn Child offers each of us that possibility. A very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2015 to each one of you, sisters and brothers in Christ.