"Health and peace and length of life and happiness for ever" – a wish to you for the new calendar year of our Lord 2017.
As we launch into a further 12 months of life not knowing what exactly will come our way (we never do!) we are certain that by keeping close to the Lord Jesus we will have a joy which is far more than just an exterior happy feeling, an optimistic attitude or a 'we'll muddle through somehow' approach to daily life.
Joy, praise of God and the search for true happiness are themes which are evidently very close to Pope Francis's heart – his first document was 'the Joy of the Gospel' (on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world), then came 'Praise be to your, O Lord' (on care for our common home) and, most recently, 'the Joy of love' (on love in the family).
This new year began with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which coincided with the World Day of Prayer for Peace; the two themes are intimately linked because Mary's perfect openness to the will of the Father – "Be it done to me according to your word" – lies at the very foundation of any sense of peace in the world.
Peace is not just the absence of war, rather it is a way of living, respectful of the God-given dignity of each life and seeking always to realise fully the potential given to each of us through the relationship of love and trust with God. Mary, Mother of the Lord, is unique in her vocation yet one with us on the pilgrim journey which leads to God:
O God, who in your loving kindness begins all good things and brings them to fulfilment, grant to us who find joy in the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God that, just as we glory in the beginnings of your grace, so one day we may rejoice in its completion. Amen.
Finally, a greeting for 2017 in Manx Gaelic: "Slaynt as shee as eash dy vea as maynrys son dy bra" (or 'health and peace and length of life and happiness forever').