New Year's Day 2022 Preaching by Sister Elise García, OP January 1, 2022 Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Manigong Bagong Taon! Sana Saeeda! I think we are all – all of us around the world – more than ready for this new year. One we hope and pray, among many other things, will mark the end of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It is a rarity that people throughout the world experience the same hardship. The whole Earth is groaning under the weight of this pandemic, now entering its third year. And it has become clear that until we start seeing ourselves as a whole-Earth community, a single people of God – interconnected and interdependent – we will continue to be susceptible to new variants and continue to prolong this historic pandemic. How good it is then that on this first day of the new year our Church throughout the world honors Mary, the Mother of God. A day when most of us, no doubt, are, like her, pondering many things in our hearts. In today’s Gospel, we are drawn into an intimate touching scene: A humble stable in a small town in Judea – a distant outpost of the Roman empire – out of which a speck of Divine light shines into the vast darkness of space as Earth makes its ambling orbit. As the shepherds enter the stable and share the good news of great joy that an angel had proclaimed to them, all were amazed. “But Mary,” as Luke tells us, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” That’s a vibrant image for us to hold in our hearts: A young Mary, in deep contemplation of an amazing event that filled her heart with joy but also, perhaps, tinged it with an inchoate sense of the crushing sorrows to come. I have been reading Carmelite Sister Constance Fitzgerald’s extraordinary essays 1 and talks 2 on the dark night and contemplative prayer, our “inheritance from the mystics.” Suffering is at the core of it, she says – whether our own suffering or that of others or of the world. It is in this contemplative prayer, in the darkness of our experience of suffering, of impasse, that we can open ourselves to the “secret inflow of God’s love into our lives.” An inflow of God that Connie says “changes our identity, changes our consciousness.” Are we not witnessing, in Luke’s story, the inflow of God’s love changing Mary’s identity, changing her consciousness? An inflow of love that, over time, begins to change the world through the power of the Divine light she birthed into being that is also alive in each one of us. Connie says that today we are called to enter into a new consciousness – what she calls a “Christ consciousness” – that our troubled world urgently needs. It’s a consciousness that arises out of the dark night in contemplative prayer. A silent prayer in our hearts that opens space for the inflow of God’s love, uniting us with Christ and his way of being – one with God, one with Spirit, and one with every person and creature on Earth. Entering into a Christ consciousness is an awakening that enables us to see our whole Earth community as one body, emerging from the same speck of Divine light. It’s an evolution of consciousness, Connie says, that humanity needs in order to address racism, white supremacy, climate chaos, the extinction of species, and all the divisions that are tearing us apart. It’s the awakening we need to ensure that all people in our Covid-infected world, north and south, have access to life-saving vaccinations. We Dominicans have dedicated our lives to reflection, to contemplating and sharing the fruits of our contemplation, to following the Way of the one Mary brought to life. That Spirit-filled vow continues to deepen in each of our hearts, even as with age or unexpected circumstances our eyes and ears, our minds and bodies fail us in challenging ways. Each of us is uniquely suited, as Connie beckons us, to be pioneers of the evolution of human consciousness in our time. To let the inflow of God’s love permeate our lives for whatever time we have remaining, and to illuminate that love for the good of the whole Earth community – into the distant future. Holy Mary, Mother of God. Pray for us, as we bring the Christ light that was first illuminated in your humble heart deep into ours – on this day and throughout this sparkling new year. _____ 1 See Laurie Cassidy and M. Shawn Copeland, Desire, eds. Darkness and Hope: Theology in a Time of Impasse, Engaging the Thought of Constance Fitzgerald, OCD (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2021). 2 Notes from “Conversation with Janet Ruffing, RSM, and Constance Fitzgerald, OCD,” in Transforming Spirituality in a Time of Plague, online presentations sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters of Baltimore, Maryland, November 12-13, 2021.