“All our days are spent.” (Psalm 89. 9). The hour will come for each of us when we shall echo these words of the Psalmist, when with anxious eyes we shall watch the last few sands of our life run out for ever. What avail then will be our useless regrets that we have made such little use of those precious days? Will our bitter sorrow and biting remorse bring back even one of the moments we have so uselessly squandered in idle pleasure or consumed in sinful deeds?
COMMENT: The last day of the year is actually a very important one. Even those with no faith tend to take stock of their lives and develop resolutions to improve themselves. We don’t have to confine our formation of resolutions to New Year’s Eve, although it is an excellent time to start. In addition to traditional resolutions like eating more healthily, exercising more, working harder and so forth, we must remember the importance of spiritual resolutions. These can include being more faithful to our prayer, adopting certain regular acts of penance or attempting to root out a particular vice or weakness.
The end of the year also reminds us that we are closer to death. It is a simple fact that we are one year closer to death than we were at the start of 2016. Perhaps we, or one that we love, may not live to see beyond 2017. This was the case in 2016 with my own mother, who died instantly and completely unexpectedly and without any warning in January… We should not become morbid or depressed with these thoughts of the approach of death, and it would be unhelpful to fixate too much on this, but it is similarly unhelpful – and unrealistic – to ignore the thought altogether. Instead, let us be prepared to meet Christ whenever He may call us, whether it is in 2017 or several decades away.
The end of the year is also a time to be thankful. For many people 2016 may have been a tough year. But no matter how hard it has been, there are always things to be thankful for. There may have been many dangers from which we have been spared that we are not even aware of. Let us give thanks to God for all of His blessings, both those we remember and those we will only see when we die. The last day of the year is also a good day on which to obtain a plenary indulgence. The Church grants this indulgence, under the usual conditions, to all those who publicly sing the Te Deum on this last day of the year.
Time is a great treasure given to us. Along with our talents and our love, it is really all that we can give to God. According to Fr Francisco Fernandez Carvajal:
Time represents the separation between the present and that moment when we stand before God with our hands either empty or full. Only now in this life can we obtain merit for the next. In fact, each single day of ours is a period given us by God, so that we may fill it with love for him, with love for those around us, with work well done, with putting the virtues into practice.
And as St Alphonsus Liguori tells us:
Time is a treasure of inestimable value because in every moment of time we can gain an increase of grace and eternal glory. If the Blessed in Heaven could grieve they would do so for having lost so much time, and in hell the lost souls are tormented with the thought that there us now no more time for them.
Have we filled 2016 with love for God and others and acquire more eternal glory? If not, then 2017 presents a new opportunity to grow in love…
Finally, here is a worthwhile meditation for New Year’s Eve by Bishop Richard Challoner of London who died in 1781, and whose cause for beatification is an extremely worthy one. As a child, Fr Doyle used to read Challoner’s meditations to his father, and perhaps this is one of the ones that he read and meditated on himself. These daily meditations nourished (at least in part) the early piety of Fr Doyle and they are now available on kindle for a very reasonable price here Amazon.com and here Amazon.co.uk
Consider first, that the year is now come to a conclusion: it is just upon the point of expiring: all these twelve months that are now past, have flown away into the gulf of eternity; they are now no more; they shall return to us no more. All our years pass in this manner, they all hasten away one after another and hurry us along with them, till they bring us also into an endless and unchangeable eternity. Our years will all be soon over; we shall find ourselves at the end of our lives much sooner than we imagine. O let us not then set our hearts upon any of these transitory things. Let us despise all that pass away with this short life, and learn to adhere to God alone, who never passes away, because he is eternal. Let us always be prepared for our departure hence.
Consider 2ndly, that as the year is now past and gone, so are all the pleasures of it: all our diversions, all our amusements, in which we have spent our time this year, are now no more: the remembrance of them is but like that of a dream. O, such is the condition of all things that pass with time! Why then do we set our esteem or affection upon any of them? Why are we not practically and feelingly convinced of the emptiness and vanity of them all; and that nothing deserves our love or attention but God and eternity? And as the pleasures of the year are all past, so are all the displeasures and uneasinesses, pains and mortifications of it: they are also now no more than like a dream: and so will all temporal evils appear to us a little while hence when we shall see ourselves upon the brink of eternity. Let us learn, then, only to fear those evils which will have no end, and the evil of sin, which leads to these never-ending evils.
Consider 3rdly, how you have spent your time this year. It was all given you by your Creator, in order to bring you forward to Him, and to a happy eternity. O how many favours and blessings have you received from him every day of the year! How many graces and invitations to good! And what use have you made of these favours? What virtue have you acquired this year? What vice have you rooted out? What passions have you overcome? Have you made any improvement at all in virtue, since the beginning of the year? Instead of going forward to God, have you not rather gone backward? Alas! what an account will you have to give one day for all this precious time, and for all these graces and blessings, spiritual or corporal, which you have so ungratefully abused and perverted during the course of this year. Then as to your sins, whether of omission or commission against God, your neighbours, or yourselves – which you have been guilty of this year, either by thought, word, or deed – what a dreadful scene will open itself to your eyes upon a little examination! And little have you done during the course of this year to cancel them by penance. O, how melancholy would your case be, if your eternal lot were to be determined by your performances of the past year!
Conclude by giving thanks to God for all his blessings of this year; and especially for his patience and forbearance with you in your sins. Return now at least to him with your whole heart; begging mercy and pardon of all the sins of the year, and for all the sins of your life. And resolve, with God’s grace, if he is pleased to give you another year, to spend it in such a manner as to secure to your souls the never-ending year of a happy eternity.