Twelve months ago, I welcomed the year 2010 from the balcony of a friend's West Side Manhattan apartment, watching the midnight fireworks over Central Park. For all I knew at the time, I would have expected to be back there again tonight - in the same place, celebrating with the same friends. Instead, my 63rd New Year's will likely find me sitting alone in front of the TV in the old Victorian house that has since become my home here in Knoxville.
Taking my cue from the venerable Roman tradition of marking the end of the year with the singing of the Church's ancient hymn of thanksgiving, the Te Deum, I suggested to the congregation at mid-day Mass today that spirit in which to approach New Year's Eve should be primarily one of thanksgiving. To me, New Year's is always ultimately an invitation to hope (as I will suggest once again in my New Year's Day homily tomorrow). Hope, however, has to be based in something substantive, lest it be just optimism, which is another animal entirely. That something, for me, can only be the experience of grace.
The state of the world at the end of the 1st decade of the 3rd millennium is perilous to be sure - more so perhaps than it seemed even a short decade ago, before 9/11, two wars abroad, and the continued deterioration of of our civic community at home. Even so, the human story continues and the evidences of grace are abundant to all those disposed to discern them. And so it is in a spirit of thanksgiving - with genuine joy and gratitude to God - that I look back on this soon-to-expire Year of Our Lord 2010, the year of my first "tender Tennessee Christmas."
And to all who have been a part of my life especially this year - family, friends (especially old friends in New York and new friends in Knoxville), brother priests, fellow Paulists, co-workers in the mission - I wish you all a very blessed and happy new year 2011.