There are four things that come not back: The spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life and the lost opportunity.

The end of a year should lead us to reflect on all that has transpired in our lives, all that we have done and all that we had hoped to do during the past year. We are historical beings. Everything that occurs in our lives has an impact on us and on the world in which we live. Life is full of chances for self-progression. Success in life demands recognition of these opportunities and their use for constructive purposes.

We all have our own gifts. God, in his generosity, bestows on his children gifts without measure. He does this for his own kind purposes. Fulfilment and happiness in this life require us not to use them selfishly but for the welfare of our fellow-men. God is glorified when we use his gifts constructively. He wants us to fare off well in this life. As one of the Fathers of the Church puts it, "The glory of God is man alive."

We live in a world in which the past, the present and the future are intimately related. That is why a knowledge of history and of human possibilities is so important. Although the past is gone and will never return, it has a tremendous influence on the kind persons that we are and the realization of what we are called to be. When we look back, it is not merely to be judgemental. It is rather to seek lessons for the future.

It is in the nature of mankind that we need criticism and guidance. We often need a re-direction of our lives. Pope John XXIII, says, "It is easy to lose a sense of direction." This is so even for the best of us. Those who point out our shortcomings are not our enemies. Indeed, they are our best friends.

To chart our course in life, we, Christians, believe that God has given us not only a road map but also a sort of compass. God has given us guidelines. He has given us a conscience. When well used and well directed, it leads us to distinguish between what is good and what is bad. We must endeavour to be faithful to our conscience, which is the voice of God within us.

In his novel, 'The Old Curiosity Shop', Charles Dickens puts it brilliantly:

For in the majority of cases, conscience is an elastic and very flexible article, which will bear a deal of stretching and adapt itself to a great variety of circumstances. Some people, by prudent arrangement and leaving it off piece by piece, like a flannel waistcoat in warm weather, even contrive, in time, to dispense with it altogether.

Many live a double life. There is the life of smiles, pleasant words, good camaraderie and feigned generosity. There is simultaneously the life of greed, injustice, vindictiveness and a gross lack of respect for others.

It is tempting to live in a fool's paradise. Many people, perhaps unknowingly, embrace it. It is extremely difficult to drag them out of it. Only a severe crisis might bring them out of their moral slumber and awaken them to their duties and to the fullness of life.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Many there are who have lost their way even when they claimed not to abandon their values. They seemed to be riding two different horses.

Dorothy Day, a lay woman, has been described as the greatest American Catholic woman of the 20th century. Some years ago, when I was in Canada, I saw a television programme in which a young lady was asked the question, "Have you ever met a saint?" She immediately replied, "Yes, I have met Dorothy Day."

Dorothy Day has done more to evangelize and transform America than most bishops and priests. The Church teaches the importance of the 'Corporal Works of Mercy' as fundamental to good Christian living. Dorothy Day says, of mercy....include not only feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, but enlightening the ignorant and rebuking the unjust.

May leaders and citizens of the Commonwealth of Dominica, as well as leaders of the various religious denominations, endeavour to work for the good of all the people. May they strive to obtain a decent standard of living for all. May they promote justice and all its implications. May they work for peace and harmony in our Land. May they embrace all opportunities for doing good that are presented to them in this year 2015, for they shall not pass this way again.