A new year has begun! The beginning of a new year often inspires new departures. It may be the time to kick a bad habit, or to face some task I have been avoiding. Whether great or small, we often set some particular goal or destination on the horizon of the new year, and set our course towards it.


The determination to begin, or to move on, to complete, is part of the mystery and the beauty of our lives. As the poet Brendan Kennelly put it:


Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.


I wish all your beginnings this new year, God speed!


But here’s a thought: much of our plans are left unfinished. Our great projects are usually incomplete. Once we reach the goal we set, we find we are not finished. The mountain we set out to climb is now part of wider landscape, a new vantage point from which to view our lives; but we still go on.


We imagine ourselves on the verge of completion and we rarely factor in the mysterious power of God’s grace which interrupts our plans and changes our destination. As one author puts it, ‘grace is incalculable’ it is ‘the invasion of the familiar landscape of ourselves by saving difference’. Grace is the discovery that my plans, my goals and my idea of completion only poor shadows of what God has in mind.


Grace is the realisation that I am not living my life in some private compartment, I am living my life in dialogue with a loving, creator God, who can see further than I.


Grace is God’s transforming love setting new and more life-giving coordinates for my life’s journey and, inevitably, grace will have to ‘break into’ my life in a way that may feel disruptive, unwelcome, and irritating! For many of us grace appears precisely when our best laid plans collapse into ruins. As one author puts it, ‘failure is one of grace’s preferred building sites’!


As the new year begins, and we set our goals and plans for the year ahead, let us leave some space for the ‘saving difference’ which is God’s grace.


For some, this ‘saving difference’ might be the call to follow Jesus more closely in the Franciscan family. If that is where God is calling you at this time in your life, we are praying for you.


Happy New Year, and on with the journey!

Friar Liam Kelly OFM

If you are interested in the Franciscan way of life please contact:

Friar Liam Kelly OFM
Phone:  087 396 0262 
Postal address: Franciscan Friary, Ennis, Co Clare.