“Each new year,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, “brings the expectation of a better world.”
At the beginning of a new year, many of us take a moment to pray for peace and unity in our own families, and to pray for success and happiness as the year unfolds. January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, and, on that day many of us take a moment to ask for the protection and intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, as a new year begins.
I pray for each of you as a new year begins. I pray for your families and your loved ones. I pray for our parishes, our priests and seminarians, and for the religious sisters in the Diocese of Lincoln. I pray especially that as a new year begins, you will grow in love and discipleship for Jesus Christ and his Church.
But becoming Christ’s disciples depends on gratitude. Blessed John Henry Newman wrote that “unless we have a true love of Christ, we are not His true disciples; and we cannot love Him unless we have heartfelt gratitude to Him.” Gratitude consists of remembering what Christ has done for us, and of expressing thanksgiving for all that we have been given. Gratitude reminds us of God’s loving kindness, and attunes us to see and appreciate the ways he continues to act in our lives. Gratitude gives us confidence in the steadfast love and mercy of God the Father.
In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul encourages all Christians to “be grateful…singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Gratitude is essential to real Christian discipleship.
Every day, before we go to sleep, we ought to consider what God has done for us, and we ought to thank him. And at the beginning of a new year, when we express our hopes for the future, we should also reflect on the many divine blessings for which we can be grateful.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am grateful for you. I am grateful that God called me to the Diocese of Lincoln, and I am grateful for the witness of your active, faithful, joyful Christian life. I am grateful for your initiative, your creativity, and your charity. I am grateful for your friendship. I am grateful for your generosity—for your financial support of the Church, your engagement in parish and diocesan life, and for the generosity with which you embrace your vocations, your apostolates, and your communities. I am grateful that God has called me to lead the priests, religious, and lay faithful of the Diocese of Lincoln who zealously pursue the will of God.
I am grateful for the seminarians of our diocese. I am grateful that 13 new men began seminary studies this year. I am grateful that eight men will be ordained priests for Lincoln this spring and five to the transitional diaconate. And, I am grateful for your response to the Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations—we have raised more than $700,000 this year, and are very close to our goal of $750,000 for seminarian support.
I am grateful for our Catholic schools. I am grateful for parents who choose Catholic education and for teachers and administrators who form students in the ways of holiness. I am grateful for students who are eager to learn, and grow, and to follow Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the FOCUS missionaries who help to form our college students, and for the Newman Center which continues to be built at the University of Nebraska.
I am grateful for the work so many of you undertake to support the poor, the vulnerable, the lonely, and the unborn. I am grateful for how many marched in the Nebraska Walk for Life. I am grateful for the work of St. Gianna’s Home, and Catholic Social Services, and the Nebraska Catholic Conference.
I am grateful for the initial success of the Joy of the Gospel campaign in the Diocese of Lincoln. I am grateful for those who collaborate in the ministry of the Diocese of Lincoln. I am grateful for each of our priests. I am grateful for each religious sister.
I am grateful to God for all that he has given us in the Diocese of Lincoln. I am grateful that we are blessed. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy said that “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” God has blessed us. We live out appreciation by turning to him, and following after his call, and transforming the world in joy, in charity, and in holiness.
May we be grateful to God this year, and may we be his faithful disciples.