Before the headline topic, a serious cautionary note to both Catholic bishops and law enforcers. Though just jests according to the Palace, President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statements calling for violence against “useless bishops” may give the wrong idea to ruthless, godless quarters that it is OK to actually harm a prelate or two, with the aim of stoking the President-prelates animosity and public anger toward him.
Drug and crime lords, godless communists and Islamic State-inspired terrorists would have zero qualms about targeting men of the cloth just to get Filipinos, media and Christians across the globe blaming Malacañang for provoking attacks.
Even one bullet, blade or blow bloodying a bishop, or barely missing him, his aide or his car, will make news here and abroad, provoking Christians of many stripes, including the influential American evangelicals, President Donald Trump’s bailiwick.
So, since Duterte’s jokes won’t stop, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police should coordinate for increased security, especially toward the May elections, when igniting anger against the President would exact high political cost for administration candidates.
Give closest protection to the most popular prelates, like Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and the ones most critical of the Chief Executive, such as Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Caloocan Bishop Pablo David.
‘Give us ability beyond what we feel able to do’
Turning to the headline topic, the subject prayer is presented in a video doing the rounds of social media, titled “A Prayer to Keep God First This New Year”: < https://www.facebook.com/ShineforTheLord/videos/220551648736970/?t=0 >. Here’s how it goes, accompanied by a heart-warming flute melody:
“Dear God, Thank you that you make all things new.
“Thank you for all that you’ve allowed in our lives this past year, the good along with the hard things, which have reminded us how much we need you.
“We pray for your spirit to lead us each step of this New Year. We ask that you will guide our decisions and turn our hearts to deeply desire you above all else.
“We ask for your wisdom, for your strength and power to be constantly present within us.
“We pray that you would make us strong and courageous for the road ahead. Give us ability beyond what we feel able, let your gifts flow freely through us, so that you would be honored by our lives and others would be drawn to you.
“We pray for your protection over our family and friends. We pray for your hand to cover us and keep us distanced from the evil intent of the enemy; that you would be a barrier to surround us, that we’d be safe in your hands.
“Forgive us for the time we have worked so hard to be self-sufficient, forgetting our need for you, living independent of your spirit.
“Keep your words of truth planted firmly within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. Lord, lead us on your level ground.
“We pray that you would provide for our needs. We pray that you would help us to prosper and make every plan that you have birthed in our heart to succeed.
“We pray that others would take notice of your goodness and could not help but to say, ‘These are the ones that the Lord has blessed.’
“May we be lovers of truth, may the fruits of your Spirit be evident in our lives. Shine your light in us, through us, over us.
“May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. To you be glory and honor in this New Year and forever.
“In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Let’s not forget the Lord
The prayer gives God the primacy and prominence in Christmas, which is downplayed in many Christmas and New Year messages.
One New Year post about “Boarding on Flight 2019” highlighted health, love, joy, harmony, well-being, peace, giving, sharing and caring. The flight, it said, would serve “the Cocktail of Friendship, Supreme of Health, Grating of Prosperity, Bowl of Excellent News, Salad of Success and Cake of Happiness,” plus “bursts of laughter.”
What about praying, grace and spirit? Or how all bounties mentioned come from God?
Pope Francis is popular for his reflections that focus more on people, and not so explicitly on God. The Holy Father’s Yuletide message opens: “Christmas is usually a noisy party: we could use a bit of silence, to hear the voice of Love.”
The rest of the message repeatedly says that Christmas and its many symbols and activities are “you” the reader, from the star and caroling to gifts and cards, from dinner and decorations to peace and forgiveness.
There is mention of letting God into your soul and establishing the Kingdom within you. It ends with “A very merry Christmas for all those who look like Christmas.”
Many people cherished and shared the message, feeling good about the Holy Father making “you” what Christmas is all about. Hence, it’s good that the video prayer quoted above reminds us how God provides many of the good things the other messages cherish.
For the New Year, Pope Francis’ top resolutions rightly and firstly urge: “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
Then come family, relationships, kind words, healing and forgiveness, passion and humility in work. There are also warnings about selfish feelings like envy, lust, hatred, anger “that can lead to vengeance,” and laziness “that leads to existential euthanasia” and pride, which comes from “pointing the finger at others.”
The final resolution is to “take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … because we will be judged on this.”
We need God’s wisdom, grace and strength, of course, to obtain and achieve all those good things. Thankfully, this is the very message of the video prayer.
In upholding the message of Christmas and fulfilling our wishes for the year ahead, God is the key. Let’s not forget that.