Theology for Millennials: ‘New Year’s Gratitude’

The New Year Is the Moment Par Excellence to Express This Gratitude

New Year’s Gratitude
Thanksgiving in the New Year © Canva

On Monday, January 3, 2022, Mexican priest Father Mario Arroyo Martinez shared with Exaudi’s readers his weekly article in “Theology for Millennials” entitled “New Year’s Gratitude,” where he reflects on the reason to be grateful for the past year, despite all the difficulties experienced.

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One more year has ended. End-of-the-year moments are always special with all their mixed yearnings and expectations. The memories of what happened in the dying year give way to the hopes for the projected one that begins. For me, it’s particularly opportune to give thanks. It’s the moment of gratitude.

Thanks for what? More than one might wonder. We continue in the pandemic, with a virus that mutates and reinvents itself as a Netflix series. In my country, inflation is flying sky-high, the rate of unemployment is growing, economic indicators aren’t hopeful; violence has increased exponentially. No, in fact, we would have nothing to be grateful for; rather, a claim would be more in order, but it’s not really known to whom, but a claim, nevertheless, ultimately to poor God, whom we usually blame for all our troubles.

This position, which is really understandable, does not take away from the fact that we can be discussing now the value of a year, the meaning of life, and its ups and downs . . . that is, it implies many things, realities for which we must be grateful, at least that’s how I see it personally. We are alive, which is already a plus, especially in times of pandemic, and we have the capacity to assess the year that ended and project the new one beginning. We have, for good or bad, our faculties intact, our living dreams, our current hopes. Yes, we have much for which to be grateful. It’s a question of looking well at the equation, and not putting the accent on what is lacking, but on what I have.

This is not about self-help psychological therapy, but rather, a way of seeing life when looked at from the faith. How sad it is to have no one to thank! How painful is  God’s absence in our secularized society! To have the need to be grateful and not really know for what or to whom; the fact that we are alive, as well as all the experiences we treasured throughout the year. And I stress all because we also learn from the bad. Many times we profit more from biting the dust than from having everything going well; at least we see with greater clarity who we really are.

To have God in the equation facilitates the task of being grateful; it’s no longer empty, generic, or absurd but concrete and real. At the conclusion of another year, my first impulse is to thank God for everything, for what is ok and for what isn’t, for life, for the experience, the apprenticeship, for my brothers, for the many people who crossed my life. I’m aware that not all can have the same perspective. There are those that have lost a dear one, or their health or their job or all three things together. How can one be grateful in such circumstances?

Such circumstances appear abruptly with the mystery of life, which is always accompanied by the experience of pain and in some moments it becomes more intense, almost obsessive, and omnipresent. However, if we distance ourselves a bit from the painful, which darkens our perspective, we can discover even there reasons for gratitude. To be grateful for being loved, while I am being so, for lost health, which I once had, for the loss of work, which I had for a time. To be grateful because those circumstances have, perhaps, made me stronger, or have given me greater wisdom, or made me realize what is really worthwhile in life, or have led me to reconsider and redirect my existence. In fine, because they have helped me to put all the threats in the same basket, and have contributed to my raising my gaze to the beyond, to the end of my earthly pilgrimage.

In fact, an infinite cadence of years succeeding one another has no meaning and would make our existence absurd. In fact, awareness of the passing of time, the “Chronos,” confronts us with the awareness of the time of salvation, the ”Kairos.” Consideration of the brevity and fleetingness of life opens to us the perspective of eternity. Sometimes painful events confront us abruptly with it; however, if we live them by God’s hand we learn to draw good from evil, life from death. Hence, a year that passes, one more year which is one year less, can lead us to look at life with wisdom and to thank God.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester