“Just” is one of the most damning words.

“Oh, that’s just Jesus,” was how many of his own friends, neighbors and relatives dismissed their better judgment and localized our Lord, reducing narratives of his extraordinary nature to the nearest common denominator of their own vision — or lack thereof. “What good can come out of Nazareth?” Which is another way of saying, what good could come from us or through us? It’s all same-old, same-old. Nothing can ever change.

Except once each year — at the end of every year — something different happens. Something clicks. We do a 180, a collective pivot. Maybe next year will be different. Maybe next year could be different. Must it take a whole year to come to that discovery? If 11:59 p.m. of 2019 can magically turn into 12:00 a.m. of 2020 and bring on a new year of hope and promise, why not every minute, every day?

Anything becomes a thing of value in the eyes of the validator. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Love has a way of seeing the possible in the impossible, the diamond in the rough, the beauty in the beast — the saint in the sinner. What makes a “New Year” so special is not so much the count of a calendar number, but the way we choose to welcome a new day — a new life.

That has to be something of the vision in the divine heart, to have continued to pursue and rescue the human race from itself over the millennia, as it continues to stray and stumble over every attempt it concocts to save itself. From the Fall to Babel, from Babylon to Rome and in the secular city that proclaims the death of God: the ego rises only to pollute its own landscape. In the end, destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen. But we forget that.

Most of what we regret about years past are those choices where some put themselves — their convenience, goalpost or appetite — before the lives or wellbeing of others. Or, more personally, maybe just some distraction that became an attraction, then an obsession and a sin. Temptation is the voice that whispers to us that we are “just” something and no more.

But in God’s eyes, we are always more. More than what we think (don’t believe everything you think!) and more than what anyone else but God has told us we are.

What did the God, the Holy Spirit tell us of Jesus at his baptism? “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Maybe his friends and neighbors in Nazareth missed the baptism. But Jesus lived among them every day and they never noticed what so many others were coming to see — those whose eyes, ears and hearts he was opening, who were being touched by God’s mercy.

They knew, and did not know, that this was not “just” Jesus, that their lives were more than they thought, or had been. That they themselves were more than their past and that they have a future that was eternal. That is the message that Jesus lived, preached and delivered. It is the message that saves lives.

Who or what else will deliver us from our slavery to routine, ritual and sin? God’s vision for us is a revision of the moldy mantras that tell us we are no more than our biology, our emotions or genes, our parties or ideologies. Or, even more delusional, what we decree we are. The saving and liberating truth is that each of us is a beloved child of God. Chosen by Love and for Love, to receive the gift of a human life from the moment of conception, we are destined for an eternity in the presence of the God from whom all creation springs and rises to.

Yes, we are more than “just” human. We are images and likenesses of God, called to be divinized. So that, as Scripture tells us, God sees in us what he sees and loves in his own Son.

Obviously, this image of God — what God sees in us — is not what we are accustomed to look at in the mirror every morning or what we see in ourselves and others, at every moment of the day. It does not alter, however, what we truly are. Jesus himself grew from a tiny cell in the womb of his virgin mother, through her pregnancy, from his birth through his childhood and manhood, and looked anything but the Savior of the world in the pulp to which he was beaten on the cross.

There is so much more, however, to everything and everyone than what we often see. Next time we are tempted to excuse ourselves too quickly for giving up or giving in, to dismiss someone as “just” a pest or a distraction, to assume that what we think is what really is the truth about ourselves or someone else, it could be salvific to ask God what his opinion is. That is one way of praying. Calling on God to bless the broken or blocked or clouded view we have of the world and who is in it, and to open our eyes — to let God awaken us — to what truly is.

That is a hope that even people of no particular faith, or who are searching for something more than where they have been or what they have become, may join with us at the beginning of a new year in looking into the future with hope for more and better. We accompany one another so much more easily when we walk the path who actually is the Way, the Truth and the Life, who has promised to be with us always, who is God Incarnate with us and in us throughout our daily lives. He will not wait another year to come to us, but offers his Love every day, every hour. If we can accept that he is more than “just” the Jesus who once lived in Nazareth but the Lord of all life. The Lord of today.

Every day can begin a new year of grace.

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