Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, The Right Rev Ken Good, brings a message of ‘Gratitude and Generosity’ to mark the start of the year.
His New Year’s message for 2012 states:
“In these times of financial pressure and economic hardship, it may seem odd to offer a New Year’s Message on the twin themes of Gratitude and Generosity.
But a counter-cultural message of this kind may be of some value.
The media continue to remind us, repeatedly and relentlessly, of what we all know only too well: the immensity of the economic challenges we face, the impact of austerity measures, that our standard of living is falling and that things will continue to be difficult for some years to come.
By focusing so much on what we do not have, we can be in danger of becoming increasingly joyless, powerless and dis-spirited. A spirit of poverty can erode our sense of hope and can rob us of much of the joy of living, such that our difficulties are compounded.
The start of a New Year is a time to be reminded, however, that there are other indicators of the quality of life, besides those of a purely financial and economic nature.
Even in the face of serious austerity measures, there can be real value in deciding to be grateful for many good things we do have: for being and feeling alive; enjoying a measure of health, for our family and relationships; having work to do (whether paid or not); the joys of the natural world; a place to live with its security and comfort; the food we enjoy; our faith and sense of purpose in life; our church, our friends and our social life; interests, hobbies, sport; our freedoms and human rights; means of transport and communication; our education and opportunities to continue to learn...
A conscious sense of gratitude (including to God) for these things can then lead to an increasing generosity. Again, instead of accepting too readily the media’s diagnosis of our inevitable poverty, there is great merit in acting counter-culturally and being more generous that we think we can afford to be. Being generous with our money and our possessions, as well as being more generous in our judgments and comments about others, will lead to all sorts of positive outcomes for us and for society. A conscious decision to be grateful and to be generous can, in fact, be quite empowering and can help us deal with difficult financial circumstances with greater control and resolve.
Jesus’ messages more often than not surprised his hearers because they were predominantly counter-cultural and unexpected. In this New Year’s Message, my prayer is that we may live, act and speak as people who are grateful and generous, and who, as a consequence, are not afraid to be positive and hopeful.