Ending one year and beginning another year always brings with it a reflectiveness, a sobering, a curious steadying. Another year gone! 2023 over! It passed so quickly! We hardly had time to catch our breath.
Perhaps the dominant image we are left with looking back at 2023 is the Hamas attack on October 7th that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and 240 people were taken hostage. Vowing to eradicate Hamas, Israel has killed over 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive gained little ground in 2023. Arms support from the USA and Europe is waning. Russia awaits the US elections in November.
Global temperatures shattered records in 2023. It was the hottest global year in 125,000 years. There were historic wildfires, extreme drought and record flooding throughout the planet.
Artificial Intelligence offered promise and peril. The release of ChatGPT triggered fears over whether AI is unleashing a new era of human creativity and prosperity or opening Pandora’s box for a nightmarish future.
Nearly 2.5 million people who were searching for a new and better life were apprehended for illegally crossing the US border.
The upcoming 2024 elections in the United States dominated the political news, exposing an even deeper divide amongst voters.
With all of this happening, it is so easy to forget or gloss over the good news of 2023:
Deaths from COVID-19, the world’s deadliest pandemic, were greatly reduced.
A “golden age of medicine” began in 2023 with not only vaccines for COVID-19, but the advent of vaccines to eradicate certain forms of cancer and there were other cancer breakthroughs.
The deforestation rate in the Amazon was down 55.8% from the previous year. The ozone layer of our planet is healing and it should start healing faster.
The rate of inflation is coming down and more people are working in our country.
Most of these events, for most of us, were events without faces. But there were faces, real human faces within these and other events in 2023. Millions of people lived 2023 in fear, in bitterness, in the midst of war, in desperate poverty, in persecution and in despair.
Despite all the global and national news in 2023, there was a lot that happened in our own homes and families: It was a year when someone close to you died; or maybe a new child was born in your family.
Perhaps it was a year in which you made a fresh beginning, graduated from school, entered a new phase of life, got married, found new employment; or maybe it was a year when you retired, lost a job, divorced or ended a phase of your life.
Perhaps it was a year when your health broke down, or a year in which some new medicine or operation gave you a new lease on life. Perhaps it was a year of trouble within your marriage, your family, your community; or maybe it was a year in which you began to appreciate your marriage, family, or community for the first time.
Perhaps you lost a loved one in 2023 or maybe it was a year in which new love and friendship was found. Perhaps 2023 was a very frustrating year for you, or maybe it was a fulfilling one.
Probably, for most of us, it was all of these things: stagnation and growth, endings and beginnings, illness and health, bitterness and love, disillusionment and enthusiasm, frustration and creativity, loneliness and community, death and love. A year of paradox, of ups and downs, of ambivalence!
Life is like that, like 2023…ups and downs, Bethlehems and Calvaries, joy and pain at the same time; joy and pain so intertwined that you don’t know how to feel or which part of you to believe. Hopefully, as Christians, somehow it all makes sense. We should know how to feel.
Christ and meaning and love, lie in that ambivalence. Christ has sanctified both Bethlehem and Calvary, both life and death. Life, with all its contradictions, riddles, unsolved ambiguities, frustrations and deaths is good, very good in fact. Ultimately it makes sense.
Despite all, our lives are the place where love and beauty are found. The world is good after all. Deep within our planet earth, deep within its struggling life, deep within our own troubled hearts, there shivers divinity, naked infant divinity, shivering like the infant Jesus in that cold barn in Bethlehem.
Yes, 2023 was a good year, despite everything. Yes, life is good and our world is good, despite bitterness and shortcomings. Yes, Christ lives within us, despite so many indications to the contrary.
Finally, yes, we can choose hope even as fear fills the air and bitterness, hatred, illness and death are a constant threat. Within our hearts and our world, as in Bethlehem’s cold stall, lies a shivering Christ.
We need not be naive about 2024. It will bring new terrors, new deaths. But it will bring new blessings and will, despite all, be a good year. One way or the other, as 2024 dawns we will all be somehow richer, irrespective of pain, for having lived in 2023.
I supplied the positives and the negatives for 2023. Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI so beautifully supplied the rest.
Thanks to Boliviainteligente for the photo.
How was 2023 a Good Year for YOU, despite everything that happened?
IN 2024 GOD WANTS SPIRITUAL FRUITS, NOT POLITICAL NUTS!
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