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Embrace all the New Year brings

In December of 1999, I was working as a reporter for a newspaper in Pennsylvania.

At the time, with 2000 looming ahead of us, many people were concerned about the arrival of “Y2K.” Would the transition in dates in computers wreak havoc on networks, data and systems? Would there be some unexpected change we couldn’t anticipate? What exactly would happen at midnight Jan. 1, 2000?

Looking back, it’s almost amusing how much anxiety there was, but no one really knew what might happen.

I remember working on New Year’s Eve, jotting in my notepad as I covered the story of the celebration in the town square. I interviewed people who were excited, hopeful and nervous for the year 2000. Then I counted down with them to the stroke of midnight.

The New Year began with cheers and music and even a marriage proposal on one side of the square. That was that. There was no earth-shattering change, no huge technical glitch that shut off traffic lights or destroyed all our backed-up files.

It was simply a new day and a new moment. And we were safely on the other side. I walked back to the newspaper office and filed a relatively ordinary story.

The seemingly limitless possibilities of a new year can be exciting. The unknowns can be daunting and intimidating. The year 2020 might bring a new baby, a new job, a new home, a new friendship or a new exercise regimen. It might also bring the loss of a loved one, an illness or a troubling change or challenge.

We can’t know what lies ahead. As much as we might not like uncertainty, there’s also a gift in not knowing what the future holds.

When the archangel Gabriel told the Blessed Mother she would be the mother of Jesus, she must have understood that she was taking on more than an ordinary maternal role. She must have anticipated that her child, the Son of God, would have a unique journey on earth. In that brief visit with the angel, she had to have seen that being Jesus’ mother would bring both joys and sorrows. She still said yes.

We have moments when God presents us with options and lets us decide. More often, though, we simply accept what life brings as it comes and step forward in faith.

We do not know what 2020 will include, though we can guess at some of what might lie ahead. Still, we say yes to the knowns and unknowns, trusting that whatever happens in the days and months ahead, we will be able to handle with the grace, the support and the love of God, who knows the future and walks this journey with us.

“Do not be afraid,” St. John Paul the Great told us. “Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Maybe 2020 will be a year that requires tremendous courage. Maybe it will be like the onset of 2000 and breeze in without a single blip. Maybe it will be a year that requires simple acts of love. Whatever it may bring, living deeply and fully seems like a perfect approach.

My friend Father Steve Spahn of the Society of Jesus tells a beautiful story about spending time with his father as he was passing on from this life to the next.

On the nightstand by his bed, Father Spahn’s father had a post-it note on which he had written the words, “I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”

As we begin a new year, may we find peace, comfort and joy knowing that the One who holds the future will love and accompany us through whatever 2020 holds.