Good and gracious God,
We your people, your sons and daughters gather these days on the close of a year. Joys and challenges of 2022 are to be acknowledged, while we look forward in faith to 2023.
We are encouraged by Pope Francis’s January 1, 2023 World Day of Peace Message entitled: “No one can be saved alone: Combatting COVID-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace.” He shares from the Vatican: “…Today we are being asked: What did we learn from the pandemic? What new paths should we follow to cast off the shackles of our old habits, to be better prepared, to dare new things? What signs of life and hope can we see, to help us move forward and try to make our world a better place?”
He calls to us “…What then is being asked of us? First of all, to let our hearts be changed by our experience of the crisis, to let God, at this time in history, transform our customary criteria for viewing the world around us. We can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests; instead, we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community, and opening our minds and hearts to universal human fraternity…”
The world witnessed a brutal, invasion in March of a neighboring country by Russia. It is a perpetration that has resulted per the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a civilian death toll at 6,655 with a further 10,368 injured by the end of December in Ukraine which includes more than 400 children killed and over 750 injured. We grieve. We cannot understand. It is unfathomable the mindset of a president to wage war bringing such misery, internally displacing 6.54 million people and causing over 16 million to cross borders as refugees.
In the past months, we see further accumulation of evidence that the climate is drastically changing, causing intense storms, constant widespread wildfires, heat waves, expanding drought conditions (particularly in some of the poorest parts of the world, in equatorial and tropical regions), disturbing changes in oceans that can cause a collapse of many species of marine life, and threats to the abundant biodiversity on both land and sea.
O God, did we turn a corner this year in our attempts to limit the dangers of climate change? The world community has worked to insure greater security for the seventy-eight Global South countries* stuck with exorbitant recovery costs. Delegates at COP27 in Egypt, representing nearly 200 nations, agreed to set up a loss-and-damage fund to help the most vulnerable nations respond to the adverse effects of climate change.
We hail steps to develop a renewed appreciation for the protection of the earth’s biodiversity. The international COP 15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada resolved by 2030 to set aside at least 30% of the world’s lands, oceans and inland waters for conservation, with a special focus on ecologically important areas. The goal would nearly double terrestrial areas under protection, and triple such marine areas, according to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.
This past year we are reminded over and over that everything is interrelated. Today’s challenges call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis. We pray and in the words of Sr. Joyce Rupp:
In this new year we pray:
to live deeply, with purpose,
to live freely, with detachment,
to live wisely, with humility,
to live justly, with compassion,
to live longingly, with fidelity,
to live mindfully, with awareness,
to live gracefully, with generosity,
to live fully, with enthusiasm.
Help us to hold this vision
and to daily renew it in our hearts,
becoming ever more one with you,
our truest Selves.
(Sr. Joyce Rupp, Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 2010, p. 144.)