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New Year 2012

A delivery package arrived last week with a carved wooden car inside. It is a collector’s item because it was made by a highly-skilled and famous young Filipino carver from Paete. It is the latest addition to my collection of trinkets that grow as the years go by.

We love collector’s items. We collect all sorts of things. Aside from religious items, I have a collection of books, of pictures, of memorabilia from my previous assignments. What do you collect for yourself?

But one thing about collections is this: we cannot bring all our collection wherever and whenever we want to. A friend of mine said, he couldn’t bring his books with him to a new assignment because they were too heavy. When a friend’s house was renovated, she could not take her puppies to her rented condominium.

You know that when fire or flood threatens we can only take with us the most important things, and normally, we prioritize people over figurines, clothes, albums and appliances. That’s how it should be.

Through the years we have collected not only material baggage along the way. We also collected invisible but very real spiritual encumbrances.

We have collected enemies because of our work or because of misunderstandings. We have new collections of wounds caused by careless words and thoughtless actions. There are increasing collections of regrets and bitterness and anger.

When necessary, we can do away and part with our material collections. But with our spiritual collections, there seems to be a difficulty within us to detach ourselves from them. We prefer to bring them with us year in and year out. Because they are not seen, we carry them also invisibly within our hearts. But because they are felt, we feel the heavy weight it bears on our shoulders. It makes our life sad and grim. It limits our progress.

New Year is here and what are you bringing in your heart as we welcome this new opportunity? Is it anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, regret, misunderstandings with people, vices and patterns of sin? If we are willing to part with material baggage, why are we so hesitant to let go of the spiritual trash that pollute our lives?

God offers us this new year as a moment of change, a chance to start again, an opportunity to renew and restore. God does this through his Son who is the Savior of the world. In the gospel, we once again meet the Child born on Christmas day. Today he is given a name, the human name of God, Jesus!

In becoming human, God assumed a human identity. Like everyone else, we can now call on him. We can now truly know him. Jesus, whose name means, Savior (the One who Saves), is an accessible God who helps free us from our collection of negative things.

As the New Year unfolds, let us bring to Jesus our collections of negative things and lay them down before his manger. Leave them there. Offer them to him. He is waiting to receive our sins, our pains, our rancors. He is waiting to touch our lives so that with his birth there will be a renewal in the way we live. If there is any gift the Christ Child desires to receive, it is the collection of our human sufferings.

I remember a good friend, Bro. Bert Singson. He was a widower who truly trusted in the Lord. After his wife died of cancer, he resumed his active role in the parish and his volunteer work with poor youth. He served as a Eucharistic minister and was part of every activity in his church.

Fearing for his own old age and poor health, he would always call me for confession whenever he was hospitalized. He always sent text messages asking for prayers and intercessions. Whatever anxiety he had, he lay before the Lord in full trust and confidence.

Last Wednesday, Dec. 28, he called for a priest before he was rushed to the hospital. I came and saw him being revived by doctors and nurses. I administered the Anointing of the Sick on him and watched him slowly drift away, giving one last surrender to the Lord. I saw a man die holy because he did not want to bring any collection of human negativity within him. He gave them all up to the Lord.

Let us too, offer to the Lord everything that happens within us and seriously ask him to inspire us to live and love and serve again… Mary lead us to your Son!