Several friends and I often laugh about a New Year’s Eve party I once hosted to which, quite inexplicably, a number of guests brought platters of shrimp. With each knock at the door, my kitchen counters were increasingly crammed with crustaceans and cocktail sauce. We laughed and shrugged at the coincidence, proclaiming an unofficial “year of the shrimp” ahead, one we prayed would be filled with the laughter and fellowship we enjoyed that night.
Since then, of course, the world itself has changed radically, especially in the last ten months. Had gatherings been permitted, I doubt I would have been inclined to celebrate this new year in the old way; for me, the suffering of so many silenced whatever revelry I might have mustered.
Even my New Year’s resolutions withered. In fact, I hesitated to make any at all, frustrated by previous failures (“I’ll try again in Lent, Lord; I promise”) and uncertain of what 2021 might do to the simplest of plans.
But the other day a priest friend of mine challenged me to reconsider my glum perspective. As I confided my fears about the future, he reminded me that as Catholics we begin the year by honoring Mary, the Mother of God — who fully entrusted every moment of her life, in joy and in sorrow, to the Lord.
“You only need one resolution for the New Year,” my friend said. “And that is, ‘May it be done to me according to your word.’”
Mary’s fiat (so named for the Latin translation of her response to Gabriel’s annunciation in Luke 1:38) is at once the simplest and boldest of resolutions. In a single sentence, a humble girl from a nondescript ancient village opened herself to the infinite and eternal possibilities of divine love. She could not have foreseen all that her assent would demand, but through what we moderns might call a kind of courageous minimalism, Mary distilled existence to its true essence: to know, desire and do the will of God.
“Take a piece of paper, and across the top, write ‘My New Year’s Resolutions for 2021,’” my friend suggested. “Then sign your name at the bottom. Let the Lord fill in the page.
“And,” my friend added, “ask Mary to co-sign.”
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors.” Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.
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