Goodbye, 2017! Another year is over, and what does it mean for you and your relationship with God? Did you grow better?… or bitter?

Mostly we see hate, controversy, and reasons to remove ourselves from the public sphere in retreat. But we are not called to run away from the troubles of the world. Rather, we’re called to face them however God calls us to do so.

Looking at these top five topics of 2017, ask yourself how you reacted, how you should have reacted, and what God wants us to take away into 2018.

1. Pope Francis Controversy

2017 Pope Francis controversy

By far, this is most likely the biggest issue for Catholics this year.

Pope Francis was gifted a special edition Lamborghini Huracan and decided to auction it off for donations to the Pope John XXIII Community Association to help end human trafficking through outreach to prostitutes, to help rebuild detroyed towns in Iraq, and to missions in Africa. Sounds like a great guy, right? Well, he still has people tsking in disapproval of him.

He is an imperfect person—and so are we all. Nit-picking any person is unnecessary. Social media, lack of proper understanding of love and respect for life, and other negative influences or ill-used resources turn our critical sides into over-drive, often overshadowing our ability to see the good in others. What are we to do, especially in regards to the leader of our Church?

As Catholics, we do believe in the oft-misunderstood truth of infallibility. This doesn’t mean the pope is the perfect Jesus Christ Himself; this means that the bishops can agree that certain teachings on faith and morals are truth. This rarely ever happens because the Church is serving Christ’s flock constantly and only makes a formal declaration of doctrine when necessary after being called into question. Ex cathedra (by the pope) infallible statements only occurred twice (1854 with the dogmas of Mary’s Immaculate Conceptions; 1950 with the dogma of Mary’s Assumption).

Everything a pope says and does is not considered infallible, and – as you surely know by now – a few bishops have issued a filial correction to Pope Francis’s Letter Amoris Laetitia. (Note: “Filial” means brotherly!) Also, there have been blog posts and public articles all correcting his behavior or things he says—not always charitably. As much as we shouldn’t worship the guy, we also shouldn’t bully him or ridicule him.

We don’t have to like everything he says or does, but we should respect him, which can be done whether we agree with his letters, homilies, and actions or not. Our obligation as laity is to pray and fast for the pope and for the Church. As a Catholic, are you disrespecting Pope Francis in your speech or engaging in productive conversations? Are you praying for him, like he asked us to when announced as pope, or just wishing you were pope instead?

“A person who thinks only about building wall, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” – Pope Francis

(How did you read that quote? Spiritually, politically, angrily, thoughtfully?)

2. Refugees, Citizenship and Border Conflicts

2017

There are millions of people world-wide who need help. They have been displaced by war and terrorism; they have had their stability threatened or taken by law changes; they have moved and offered services and been unwelcome.

Satellite images revealed burning Myanmar villages, only to discover that refugees are fleeing in massive number to Bangladesh. Still, we’re left asking what really happened and what to think about it.

Closer to home for most of us, The USCCB has made a statement about the cancellation of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), asking for solutions for those formerly protected under it.

Destruction all over the Middle East are creating vulnerable refugees whose homes were destroyed.

Remember that you are first and foremost aligned with Christ. Ignoring the problem and sending them all away when they are at our doorstep hungry, tired, thirsty, and in need of work isn’t loving. It also doesn’t help you. What is God trying to tell us in a world so full of information yet so confused and homeless itself?

“This world’s thy ship and not thy home.” St. Therese of Lisieux

3. Human Right to Life

2017

The struggle is real, as popular culture quips.

Pro-life millennial Katie Ascough is confronted with impeachment from her position as University College Dublin’s student president for removing abortion information from the student handbook. She claims that she was advised that publishing abortion information was illegal. Should she have done it?

American pro-lifers are still praying for the government to stop Planned Parenthood and hopefully end abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. The US House passed a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks, but a proposal to remove the adoption tax credit, which encourages adoption over abortion, is considered. Twitter also rejected a pro-life campaign ad. Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor are not out of the woods yet. Despite having won their case in 2013 with religious exemption, they face two new lawsuits from California and Pennsylvania.

“No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war.” – Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor

Did you stop praying and acting for pro-life matters after your local or national pro-life pilgrimage? Are you going to renew your efforts for the cause in 2018, or give up?

As Catholics, we are called to defend life. And we have. For years. And years. And years. There are triumphs and perceived failures and trials of patience. God is even allowing nuns to struggle in court (again)! What is God calling us to do with our lives in defense of others’ lives? What is He trying to tell us about fighting for life this year?

“…let us exalt, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-4

4. Natural Disasters

2017

Fists are often shaken at God when natural disasters strike, but is all God wants to blow us down with gusts of wind and strike terror with lightning?

Puerto Rico was devastated but also blessed with the aid of celebrities’ private jet flights out for cancer patients and other compassionate donations of money and time, though some argue too little and too late.

Hurricane Harvey devastated communities, but there are incredible accounts of heroism that remind America what the American community really cares about—the people despite gender, colour, salary, or political party.

Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic. Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean and USA.

A 7.1 earthquake hit Mexico. A Monsoon flooded Bangladesh. In Colombia and Sierra Leone, mudslides affected thousands…

Though major life changes are a time to think about how you want to live your life and change erroneous ways, I think God is calling us to better ourselves and our community with even greater acts of love and service than before. What do you think God wants us to learn when He doesn’t spare us from storms?

“In the evening, the dove came back to him and there in its beak was a freshly-picked olive leaf!” Genesis 8:11, regarding Noah and the Flood.

5. Sexual Identity

gender ideology

Sexual identity, especially LGBTQ topics, seem to have taken center stage again this year in popular culture. In Egypt, men were arrested for homosexuality  — many of whom were sentenced to three years in prison — but, meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for his country’s past treatment of LGBTQ persons. Though some may disagree as to what the apology really means or will accomplish, if anything, it’s at least vastly different than the situation in Egypt. Australia voted to legalize gay marriage, causing an immense amount of celebration among the LGBTQ community and supporters.

America can’t decide how to organize its bathrooms in a politically correct manner, especially in public schools. Around the world, parents are questioning what to do when their child asks to be the opposite gender—hormone treatments? Gender reassignment surgery? Therapy with a gender dysphoria specialist? What about Patrick Mitchell’s struggle? How can parents do what’s right for their child?

It should be easy for us to agree with Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who spoke to the UN this year on the need for eliminating human trafficking universally and protecting the vulnerable, and Pope Francis who spoke in July against human trafficking as slavery and a “crime against humanity,” but it’s not always easy for us to understand what God wants us to do with the parades of rainbow flags and hurting people in the LGBTQ community. What has God placed in your life this year, trying to ask you to help your neighbor in these matters?

“To convert somebody, go and take them by the hand and guide them.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

As we enter 2018 together and social media is flooded with calls for New Year’s Resolutions, what are you going to resolve between you and God regarding these top five topics from 2017?

 

Photo credit: gunthersimmermacher / pixabay