It’s no coincidence that today’s Gospel is the same as the daytime Mass on Christmas Day. Tomorrow the Christmas octave concludes and a new year begins, but it begins by honoring Mary as the Mother of God. Today is the end of the year; in the Book of Revelation Our Lord identifies himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending (see Revelation 1:8; 21:6,13), so in contemplating the last day of the year in the light of the prologue of the Gospel of John we are taking stock of the year ending and drawing up resolutions for the year beginning. If we read today’s Gospel carefully we see that John is not just speaking of one moment that comes and goes, but of Someone around whom everything revolves: the Word, who enables us to become children of God and brings us the fullness of grace and truth. Therefore we contemplate the ending and the beginning of the year in his light.
There are two spirits at play in celebrating the ending and beginning of the year. One is squeezing out the last few hours of the year in the best party you can find (or devise) and go howling and cheering from one year to the next. It’s an effort that can’t be sustained very long and usually doesn’t last past the hangover on the morning of January 1st. The Christian spirit of this day, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from making it a moment of celebration, but also sees the importance of taking stock of all the blessings received during the year and giving thanks to God for them, as well as showing gratitude for his mercy regarding those moments we regret. It is a good moment to ask before the party whether the year began with Christ (Alpha) and ended with him (Omega), or whether at some moment we “broke orbit” around the Word and started to veer off into the unknown. In today’s First Reading John reminds us that the “antichrists” apparently started with Christ, but ended up against him. We pray that we’re not one of them, but we must also pray to identify them so that they don’t knock us off orbit too.
Let’s thank Our Lord today for all the blessings of this year about to conclude and for his mercy over anything this year we regret. Let’s pray that in the new year we continue to place him at the center of our lives and make his Word resound.
Readings: 1 John 2:18–21; Psalm 96:1–2, 11–13; John 1:1–18. See also Christmas Day.