In ancient Roman mythology, Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions. He was depicted as having two faces, one looking ahead to the future and one looking behind to the past. The month January is named after him because it is the time of transition into a new year from the old. As we come to the end of 2020, we engage in the perennial activity of reflecting on the year we’ve gone through and make predictions as to what the new year will hold. Predicting the future is something that intrigues us, because the future is always a mystery. But if the experience of this past year has taught us anything, it’s that attempts to predict the future are usually an exercise in futility.
We stand on the threshold of a new year, as though standing in a doorway leading to a darkened room, wondering at what we’ll find in there. Interestingly, the Gospel for today’s Mass is the Prologue of the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-18). With the end of the calendar year, the Church invites us to reflect on the beginning, the first line of his gospel being: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” By nature, the future is obscure. But John’s Prologue speaks of Christ as “the light of the human race.” He then writes: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” As we move forward into the unknown future, the Church reminds us that Our Lord is the light shining in the darkness. We can always rely on Him and find our way in Him. So good is He to us that, “to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.” To make this possible, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The Lord Jesus, through His Incarnation, reveals to us the human face of God. Through our shared humanity, the Lord offers us a share in His divinity. This is the truth we bring with us into the obscurity of the new year. This truth provides us with the firm foundation that we need to move forward with confidence and hope, despite the unknowability of what 2021 will bring. The fact is, we don’t know what the next moment of our lives holds for us, let alone tomorrow or the next day. But we do know that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” May this new year be a time in which we discover together the beauty of this truth, which is eternal, having been from the beginning and being without end.