In this week’s blog Fr Paddy reminds us that the New Year brings with it opportunity and asks that as we face the challenges of our time may we be confident that our God is with us.

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Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 6th January 2010

These days we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. This significant celebration traditionally marks the end of our Christmas season and I am sure that as the month of January continues to move, we have once again returned to the familiar and the routine. The Epiphany tells the story of a group of people who were searching for meaning and purpose in life. They looked beyond conventional religion; in fact their search was fuelled by a puzzling star that shone brightly over an unknown village and an even more insignificant stable, in its surrounding countryside. This bright star revealed to them the beginnings of our Christian story, the birth place of the infant Jesus. This bright star announced a new time, an opportunity for new beginnings and an invitation for all people to be filled with new life, joy and peace. For this reason the message of the Epiphany is a lasting one, throughout the whole year. We are all invited to discover Christ in the familiar and routine places that is our daily lives.

Those who discovered this wonderful moment of joy and peace knew that things would never be the same again. They were told in a dream,

Go home a different way.

In the same way when we have a real moment of encounter, our lives are changed for the better. A tendency for us all is to retreat backwards and long for what we once had. This is true in so many ways, as our economy begins to recovery, we may wish for a tiger economy that was never real, so many now painfully experience. This is a time of opportunity in our church. The bright star that illuminated uncertain pathways, for those seeking to encounter Jesus, can also move us from the darkness of abuse, secrecy and cover-up, to a brighter time, of great renewal in our Church.

I was greatly heartened by the huge numbers of people who attended mass this Christmas. Despite the recent Ryan and Murphy reports it is clear that our faith is greater than the dark history of scandal revealed by courageous survivors. Our church can never be the same again it is on the verge of a new springtime. As we discern our pathway it must include and listen to all its members, not just a male clerical order. Our hope comes from the great wealth discovered in a place of poverty and isolation. It is in the midst of poverty and vulnerability that Jesus Christ wants to nourish and sustain us. We are all longing for the bright stars revelation. Our pathway is given direction by the person of Jesus Christ who himself has walked its valleys and hills and felt its hopes and burdens.

These days already are getting that little bit longer, the new light is getting brighter and slowly dispelling the winter darkness. New Year brings with it opportunity. As we face the challenges of our time may we be confident that our God is with us. May his light and peace allow us to know All will be well.