I’ve had a strong pull, or better, a push to look ahead and see what’s out there on the horizon. It is, after all, a new year. Even with this mental exercise I’m reminded that Jesus once warned that those who are to be his followers should not look back on the life they had, but to plow forward into a new life with him. He labeled this forward thinking and being and reality the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62). When Lot’s wife, so the story goes, longingly looked back on her cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, she became a pillar of salt, trapped in the nostalgia of two great cities now gone (Gen 19:26). When I say that I’ve had a strong push to look ahead, what I may mean is that I don’t necessarily care much for 2021, so why not look to 2022? But even looking ahead to 2022 gives me similar notions of despair that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps I’m mourning an out-of-control culture with its wars and rumors of wars. Society, so it seems, has lost its footing with many saying there is no footing at all, so find your own! Ideologies such as these leave individuals and families isolated and confused having no common values in which to begin healthy conversations, much less – debate. Maybe I lament that everything (and I mean everything) has been and continues to be reduced down to politics. If I hold onto these anxieties for too long, I start to turn to salt. I end up clenching my fists, tightening my jaw, wanting to scream, “Is there anything sacred anymore?” Maybe I’m just getting older, and I’m finally to that mid-life question, “Am I the last of my kind?”
I believe God saw I was feeling sorry for myself so he sent me an article from the catholic journal, First Things, by one of my favorite journalists George Weigel, who had similar sentiments as me at year’s end. In his latest article, George tells how he called up a friend and simply said, “Give me some good news.” To which [his friend] immediately replied, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” After his encounter, George wrote, “It’s always good for the Church to make that basic confession of faith [Jesus Christ is Lord], but especially when the shadows are lengthening across the historical landscape.” He shares how the ancient Church had a custom on the Solemnity of the Epiphany (which the Church celebrated last Thursday) to look ahead. They did this by giving a preview or an itinerary about holy days on the horizon. The ancient Church announced the date of Easter and the other moveable feasts throughout the whole of the Church Year. For example, Ash Wednesday falls on March 2nd this year. Palm Sunday’s April 10th, and the following Sunday, Easter Sunday, is on April 17th, but not before Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday a few days before, and on and on and on the calendar of God’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church goes. The point was (and is) to look ahead, and not to the chaos that most certainly lay on, but to the calm, the real, and the truth that is the kingdom of God.
Weigel ends his piece with these words,
“No matter what the vicissitudes and trials of history, Christians live in a different time zone: the time zone of salvation history. That is the truth to which the solemn liturgical proclamation of those dates attests. And that is why, however shaky the grounds for optimism, there is every reason for hope.”~George Weigel
My friends, right now (today) is one of those days for hope. On Sunday, Jesus got baptized, and not for the sins of the past but for the solemnity of the present. Getting into those muddy waters showed everyone that God was willing (and is willing) to get dirty with us, walk alongside us, and even be broken and suffer with us. Jesus Christ is Lord, and I am not. Jesus Christ is Lord, not the powers and principalities of this world. Jesus Christ is Lord…Jesus Christ is Lord.
Finally, it’s my hope and my prayer for you and me right now (today) that when you get stuck in your ruminating mind, when someone else pushes you to your limits, or when you feel all alone, recall that ancient creed of the Church which brings us back into the time zone of salvation and on and into God’s home of hope. It may be another rough year ahead, only God knows, but thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is Lord.
 George Weigel, “No Optimism, Much Hope,” First Things, (https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2022/01/no-optimism-much-hope) accessed on 1/5/2022.