A word for 2022
If you blink, you might miss it.
I adopted the practice of a word of the year relatively recently. The close of one year pulls together pause and reflection as I think about how this word has carried me from one year into the next, and what lies ahead for the next year.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany. In the Catholic tradition, this is the day when the Magi or three Wise Men arrive to pay homage to Jesus, bringing Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12). It occurred to me when I got up yesterday to pray that this was such a coincidental way to cap off one word of the year and enter into the next.
As it happened, I was presented with the word gift for 2021. I remember the day I received it quite vividly: I was kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament and reflecting on 2020 — there was a lot to think about from those nine months in COVID lockdown alone. In the midst of my recollection, the Lord broke into my thoughts and gave me a single word: gift. I sat with that and wondered what it could mean, and a few beats later, God gave me something else to chew on: “This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes 24).
A sincere gift of self
The Lord knows that I love to pay attention to birthdays, anniversaries, and other dates of particular importance. 2021 would be the year that I turn 25 — a milestone, by some accounts. I thought about how special it would be for the Lord to shower me with gifts all throughout the year, given that it was a big year.
A quick overview of my 25th year reveals that there weren’t any gifts at all: no major life changes or milestones, what seemed like endless stress from work, and the flip-flop of improving followed by worsening COVID conditions.
But internally, the Lord was challenging me: how will I make a gift of myself to others? And even deeper, am I willing to see gifts in both moments of light and darkness? Maybe the gift isn’t so much to be received. Maybe I’m meant to give.
To make a sincere gift of self is, in a word, challenging. In a world that values radical individualism and seems to be growing more divided with every passing crisis, how can I possibly trust other people with some of the deepest parts of my being? To be a gift of self means to love radically. To love radically means to be willing to show vulnerability. To quote Henri Nouwen: “New life is born in the state of total vulnerability — this is the mystery of love.”
It would be irresponsible of me to say that after a year of praying and living with this word that I finally *get* what it means to give of myself. I think that this is something that we spend our entire lives learning. It’s easier some days than others, it’s easier to love some people more than others. But on the Epiphany, the day when the Magi arrive bearing their gifts for Jesus, there is a renewed desire to go even deeper.
A word for 2022
Like many gifts from the Lord, this word was presented to be me gradually: a team effort of many people saying “yes” to God first, and allowing for the spirit to move where He will.
Over the past few months, I’ve felt a call to go inward and leave behind ‘public’ life. (As a quick aside: I have no idea what this means yet. There is a lot to discern through this.) This culminated in a beautiful conversation with my spiritual director on Jesus’ life in Nazareth, approximately 30 years of domesticity prior to entering into His public ministry. My SD had a document that he wanted me to reflect on… but he couldn’t find it, so he gave me something slightly different instead.
I was at daily mass the next day, Thursday. I’ll be completely transparent and say that I can’t remember what the homily was about and how it pertained to the readings of the day, but Father said this which pierced me: “Everything God does is to be intimate with me. Or, if you prefer, is for friendship with me.”
The following day, Friday, there was Eucharistic Adoration after the morning mass. I reflected on the document that my SD gave me, a reflection on Nazareth by Pope St. Paul VI. Remember: this wasn’t the one he intended to give me, but he said that this would suffice until he found it. (I literally left the church after Adoration to see a text from him, linking me to the correct document.) This particular line in the document grabbed me: “We ask therefore the favor of joining Our Lady, mother of the home at Nazareth, and her humble but courageous husband St. Joseph, in their intimacy with Jesus Christ, her human and divine Son.”
All of this culminates in a lovely post by my friend Camille about her word of the year, and this got me thinking about my own word. Did I catch it? Had He revealed it to me yet?…
…did you catch it? This year’s word is ‘intimacy.’
It’s a loaded word, one that makes many uncomfortable, including myself. It denotes a certain type of familiarity or closeness — closeness that can only be achieved through vulnerability, trust, and self-gift. Taking an example from the Holy Family in Nazareth, there is an opportunity here to retreat to His heart and get to know Him in a new and profound way.
As we embark on another year, I’d be interested to know if you take on this practice, and if you feel so inclined, I’d love to hear about your word.
In the meantime… more from Nouwen: “Power kills. Weakness creates. It creates autonomy, self-awareness, freedom… the good ground on which new life can come to development and maturity.”
United in the Eucharist,