Reading from the Old Testament
A reading from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11,13-14
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.
Responsorial Psalm Ps. 67:1-2,6-7
Refrain: We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
Reader: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. (Refrain)
Reader: That your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. (Refrain)
Reader: The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. (Refrain)
Reader: May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him. (Refrain)
Reader: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 12:22-31
Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
1 John 2: 18-21
Psalm 96: 1-2, 11-12, 13 “Let the heaven’s Be Glad and the Earth Rejoice!”
John 1: 1-18 (Prologue)
“The Light Shines in the Darkness!”
It is a long tradition in the Church to mark the end of the civil year as a time of reflection and thanksgiving for the year that has passed, then praising God for his blessings as we recite the great prayer of the Te Deum, looking forward with anticipation to cross the threshold into the New Year of 2022 with hearts filled with hope. But perhaps more than in any years of the recent past, this particular year that ends this evening has been one continuing the thoughts of a year ago, of sobering obstacles, trials, difficulties, darkness and innumerable complexities that have touched each of us individually, and as families and as a faith community.
The Gospel chosen for this last day of the civil calendar, known in many nations as the Feast of St. Sylvester, a pope and martyr of the early church commemorated on December 31st, is taken from the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John. In this passage which repeats the Gospel on Christmas Day, we are given a mystery. The mystery of the LOGOS, the WORD. It is a language that is veiled and yet revealing at the same time. It presents the Lord Jesus to us as the “WORD.” He is the WORD who takes on flesh and is eternal, from “the beginning with God.” The passage goes on to say that the WORD was God and that the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us.
The term “WORD,” given to Jesus in this passage, is a translation of the Greek word LOGOS. “Logos” can mean a “plan,” or “reason,” or “logic.” I also can be understood as the spoken word. In this passage, it especially reveals to us that God SPOKE from eternity His perfect plan of salvation and this wisdom spoken is a Person. The Person is the Divine Son of God. Thus, when the Son “speaks” and when He is “spoken” by the Father, all things come to be.
Perhaps this sounds quite confusing to many. In fact, this is partly the point. The point is that this beginning to John’s Gospel reveals to us that the action of God creating all things and ultimately fulfilling His wisdom through the Incarnation, the Son becoming flesh, is a mysterious plan far beyond what we could ever comprehend or fathom on our own. We should try to understand this mysterious language as a statement in and of itself. The statement is this: SEEK TO UNDERSTAND THE MYSTERY, BUT KNOW THAT THE MYSTERY OF CHRISTMAS AND CREATION IS BEYOND YOU. BUT SEEK TO UNDERSTAND AND COMPREHEND NONETHELESS.
The Christmas season should be a time of great joy and celebration. It should be a time in which we reflect upon the nativity of Christ the Lord. We should take time to read the story again and again, listen to the well-known Christmas carols and not set that all aside so quickly when the tree dries or it’s time to take down the decorations. Christmas IS a great mystery of faith, and we should give it time and attention.
And on this New Year’s Eve, let us recall the ancient Hebrew toast of joy, “L’chaim” – TO LIFE! To paraphrase a musical song with this title, Life does have a way of confusing us, blessing and bruising us. We celebrate LIFE with its ups and downs, its obstacles and challenges, its sorrows and joys. “L’chaim” – TO LIFE!
As John reminds us, God has come to us as LIGHT. Christ brings l ight into a world where darkness lingers like and unwelcome intruder at a banquet. Into the commotion of family life, God comes as light. Into the fears of waning or fragile health, God comes as light. Into the disgrace of injustice and violence, God comes as light. When light arrives in a space, darkness flees. Christ, our light, continues to shine brightly, inviting us to illumine those places where shadows linger. We carry the lantern of his light, pulling back the curtains, callout, “TO LIFE”
In all of the obstacles, trials, difficulties, sufferings, and complexities we have experienced in this year of 2021, how have we seen or experienced Christ?
The Gospels teach us how to discern the workings of the Lord in our lives each day. Yes, we are surrounded by a pandemic, but we have survived. We are filled with feelings of doubt and uncertainty about the future, but our strength will always be in God’s WORD and in our shared faith, striving each day to offer encouragement to each other, pray for each other, console each other and uplift each other.
So, dear friends, as we stand on the threshold of this New Year, let us pray in thanksgiving for the Lord getting us to this point. None of us a year ago expected the year we have just gone through. Some have lost loved ones suddenly; the life we were used to has changed fundamentally; we still walk around with masks, maintaining social distance and trying – often with frustration and anxiety – to adapt to this new way of interacting. But we still have THE WORD and we have each other. Let us reflect on “What we can still give?” for each other and pledge ourselves anew to be set aflame with the LIGHT OF CHRST and BE LIGHT to all those around us.
Christ our light, brighten this weary world with your continuing generous mercy.
Word made flesh, teach us to search for your truth and live in its light.
Giver of life, send us forth with renewed energy to bless this world. AMEN.
Celebrant: God of all blessings and goodness, on this New Year’s Eve we turn to you in humility and thanksgiving and offer to you our heartfelt prayers and petitions.
READER: For the Church, that she continue to guide and shepherd us through the Holy Father, our bishops and priests so that we can be truly God’s holy people, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all nations, that we can each become an instrument of God’s peace and justice especially to our own society in Hong Kong, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all the many ways you have showered blessings on us in this past year; Lord give us the humility to acknowledge you and accept our thanks in these prayers, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all the trials we have faced in this past year; Lord give us the strength and grace to overcome any obstacles and bear with deep faith whatever crosses that come our way, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the departed, especially George Edwards for whom today’s Mass is offered, and other loved ones and friends who passed away in this year now ending, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Heavenly Father and Creator, all good gifts come from you. On this eve of the New Year receive our prayers offered in conviction in the divine intercession of your Son, who lives and reigns, for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.