New Year Reach

Fr Francis Browne took some of the last pictures of the Titanic. He was a wonderful photographer though unknown in his lifetime. A trunk full of negatives was found under his bed when he died in the early 1960s. He once took a picture of a small boy looking up at a steam train engine towering above

him. The two engine drivers are looking down at him benignly. Someone placed a caption, from Browning, below it:

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?

As our Christmas greetings give way to New Year ones we reflect on what 2006 may hold. For six long years we have hoped for some break in the continuous erosion of civil liberties and economic opportunities. None has appeared. As year follows year all the indicators feed the sense of frustration, hopelessness, even despair felt by the majority of people. Will 2006 be any different?

Our ancestors knew the seasons but did not have a particular day or hour that marked the new year. We have imposed these markers on history and with them we have given ourselves a moment to reflect and to resolve. New Year resolutions made in the fickleness of a moment disappear, like morning dew, and leave no trace. But resolutions made by digging deep into our experience and leading to firm convictions can nourish our actions through the year.

What resolutions can we make? That is for each one to decide. But the guiding light can be that our ‘reaching exceeds our grasp.’ In other words we aspire to what is not immediately seen or achievable. We do not sit on our hands and wait but resolutely set ourselves to reach for the goal that may be only confusedly seen.

The three wise men set out from the east with only the vaguest idea of what they were doing or where they were going. They ‘saw his star’ (Matthew 2:2) and that was enough to make them set out. They followed the signs and used their intelligence and in the end they were rewarded with an ‘epiphany,’ a ‘showing.’ As we enter the new year we are not at all clear what is going to happen. But that is not a reason for doing nothing. We still have to get up and go, to follow the signs and reach beyond our grasp.

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