Every year on this day I find myself humming U2’s lyric, “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day,” on mental repeat. I don’t think the psychology as to why I annually do this is too complex; it just fits for the obvious reason that I have heard the song a million times, and it is, after all, the appropriate date. This mantra does sing to my heart after a while, however, similar to the way the sentiments of “White Christmas” sang the week before. The song “New Year’s Day,” like the rest of U2’s album, “Under a Blood Red Sky,” explores the reality of extreme human and societal brokenness juxtaposed with immense hope. What is a seeming contradiction to some is a real coexistence with which we as mothers are very familiar and deeply understand. Call to mind labor pain and delivery . . . and that’s just the starting point. Mothers hold within themselves the reality that a world rife with pain and suffering, wailing (like Bono often sings) for relief and divine intervention does truly receive that sustaining grace, freeing mercy, and ultimate salvation from God himself.
On New Years I do what I think many do at the dawn of a new year. We look forward and think backward. We take stock and assess where we have been, and we plan ahead. Wanting things to be better, desiring to change ourselves, longing to change the world. It’s our New Year’s mindset. What we all have is the opportunity for gratitude, an opportunity to marvel at the gifts received and the opportunity for motivation and openness to renewal if we can hold onto the truth we know to be real. But the stark, harsh reality that nothing is really different today can hit us like a wintery blast. Nothing has really changed, the problems and brokenness of yesterday, of yesteryear are still here. I’m afraid too many times I have cynicism in my heart—here I still am, up to my eyeballs in laundry, driving, family mayhem, problems big and small, new and old, and there is still a house full of people who desire to eat several times a day . . . my row to hoe, my trench, my cross is still here. On a grander scale, there is still war, poverty, suffering, and injustice in the world. What has really changed? But here is the moment when a mother’s heart has its chance to shine through . . . embracing the realities of brokenness and grace that exist at the same time, holding them in her heart, and choosing to do the only thing anyone really can do, choose to love and be changed within oneself through the reception of grace. This is how we as mothers, as Christians, become God’s powerful instruments of change in a hurting world.
Even though the flip of the calendar year does not wipe the slate clean, it is a time we can remember the special giftedness and perspective we have as mothers. We remember how God has been with us, empowered us, used us, healed and changed us, and how he has sustained us in times of loss and sorrow. We can recall, reframe, and reset for what is to come. Our Church, through her divine inspiration, points us in the right direction, the same direction every January 1st, as we universally celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, our Mother. Let us look to the one who is set before us as our guide and our example, the one who traveled by donkey, gave birth in the hay, received shepherds, angels and dignitaries as she sat amongst barn animals. And as this all played out, Luke tells us, Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Lk 2:19). Mothers, let us bring hope and change to the world. We know what we need to do. Look to our mother.
Happy New Year!