How do you renew your faith in the new year?
New Year’s celebrations can go beyond toasts and resolutions to opportunities for religious renewal. This week’s clergy discuss how to refresh your spiritual life in the coming year through prayer and a rededication to the tenets of your faith.
The Rev. JoAnn Barrett
Senior minister, Gathering of Light Interspiritual Fellowship, Melville
The New Year is a perfect time to renew your faith. There are so many external factors working in your favor. First of all, the health and fitness world is playing on all the guilt from overindulging during the holiday season and constantly reminding us all to keep to those New Year’s resolutions. Our bank accounts are reminding us of humility and a return to simplicity from the added bills now due from the past few months. And now that we are finished singing songs and visiting friends and relatives, we tend to want to rest. What better way to rest deeply, than in the arms of the God of your understanding? Winter is the season for hibernation, but this is not a disconnect, but a reconnection to something more nourishing. The stillness of winter is the perfect reminder to become still and listen to the longing of your heart and seek refuge in one’s faith. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Sitting by a fire during the cold of winter is another simple reminder of the power of the universe to provide and transform all at once. And we all know how awe-inspiring is the day after a snowstorm when the world is blanketed in white. The purity and grace of it all is exhilarating! And don’t get me started on the ability of the crisp, clear night skies of winter to inspire. The call to renew is everywhere we look. Even the days are getting brighter, albeit just one minute a day. But if we just added one minute a day to our faith practices, think of the illumination of our souls that one minute will build. I pray each of us can renew our faith this New Year, one minute at a time.
Imam Mahmood Kauser
Missionary, New York City and Long Island chapters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
‘In God we trust.” This phrase passes before our eyes daily, yet remains unseen. Whether paper or coin, these words are at our fingertips whenever we pay for something. At the brink of a new year, every woman, man and child around the world begins to ponder over the past year and plans for the future. Some set resolutions, while others work to forget the past. Islam’s holy book, the Holy Quran, teaches, “Surely every hour that follows is better for thee than the one that precedes.” (Chapter 93, verse 5, Maulwi Sher Ali (ra) translation). Therefore, we must ask ourselves if this day was better than our last. Have we taken steps to insure that the lives of our children will be better because of the choices we made today? If we strive in our current path, then will we bring about a transformation that moves mountains? “Let every soul look to what it sends forth for the morrow.” (Quran chapter 59, verse 19) In the Quran, tomorrow is not merely the rising of the sun on a new day, but rather refers to the lives of those we leave behind, as well as welcoming our next life. Therefore, our faith in God is but a trust, and if we fulfill that trust today, our faith will grow tomorrow. So next time you actually have cash in your wallet and you’re about to pay for your coffee, take a moment to look at those words, and remember to embrace your trust in God, for trust in God is the very definition of faith.
Board of directors, Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island, Melville
Hindu New Year is one of the widely celebrated festivals in India. But it is not celebrated on Jan. 1, as it is in the western world. Instead, our New Year is celebrated in accordance with the Hindu Lunar Calendar and begins with the new moon in March/April. The first day of this month is celebrated as New Year’s Day. It is a celebration of new beginnings, heralded with good food and community gatherings at people’s homes. Hindus go to the temples and other religious places to offer prayer to Almighty God. They pray that God grant peace, prosperity and good health in the coming year. According to the wisdom embedded in Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, a sacred treatise in Hinduism, this is a changeable world. Everything is changing all the time. So every moment is a new moment. Treat every moment as a new beginning and celebrate it in the spirit of newness. That said, Hindus in the United States do follow the Roman calendar for day-to-day things. Most Hindus, both here and in India, make New Year’s resolutions in accordance with our religious beliefs. Among the most common resolutions are to rededicate ourselves to helping others, to give more to charity and, above all, to improve our spiritual lives through prayer, good intentions and good works.