Each year, over a million people crowd into Times Square in New York to welcome the New Year. Once the crystal ball finishes its 77-foot descent and the sign beneath lights up with the digits of the New Year, those present, together with the many more millions watching on TV, hug and kiss and wish each other a Happy New Year.
In Spain, there is a similar custom. People watch the TV broadcast of the Puerta del Sol tower clock in Madrid. When the New Year arrives, friends and family eat 12 grapes, one grape for each of the 12 strokes of the clock. Then, they hug and kiss and toast in the New Year. Each country welcomes in the New Year with its own particular custom. But there is one custom that unites people across the globe.
With the beginning of the New Year, people everywhere renew their hope in a better future. They look forward to health and happiness for themselves, to greater harmony in their families and to peace in the world. Roughly one in three Americans take the opportunity of the New Year to make a resolution to better themselves. A good thing for individuals to do. Families only change when family members change. The world becomes a better place when individuals become better persons, more caring, more just and more selfless.
On the threshold of the New Year lurk many unresolved challenges. So many unemployed. Our soup kitchens and pantries exhausted. A global economic crisis. Marriage on the line. Protests turning violent. Youth morally desensitized. Religion increasingly marginalized. Freedom of religion summarily dismissed.
Despite significant defections, the Catholic Church remains strong. Its overall population is growing. But a recent survey does note an alarming trend. Catholics are increasingly more influenced by the social mainstream than they are by the basic principles and teachings of their faith. This year, therefore, a good New Year's resolution that would benefit not just the individual but society itself would be for Catholics to be fully Catholic.
To be fully Catholic means embracing the teachings of the Church from the Church herself and not from the media. It means living the sacramental life of the Church that offers a deepening of our relationship with Christ that cannot be done on one's own. To be fully Catholic means to be fully alive in Christ who is Lord and thus can never be contained within the sanctuary of a church or relegated to a small corner of our lives.
Who Jesus is and what he says matter not just in our personal lives but in our political lives as well. Jesus is not simply Lord in religious matters, but in culture, science, ecology, scholarship, friendship and family life. His dominion extends not simply from sea to sea, but into the classroom, the working place, the home and the sports arena as well.
Living in historical continuity with the Church that Jesus founded as the sign and sacrament of salvation, Catholics are in a unique position to offer the common good a rich heritage of wisdom, experience and grace. If only Catholics were fully Catholic!