By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The best way to usher in a truly “new” year is to stop waiting for things to get better on their own, and instead recognize what is essential and reach out now to help others, Pope Francis said.

“Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves, ‘This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help?'” he said.

“So many people, in the church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do; they are waiting for your help,” he said at Mass Jan. 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day.

While Pope Francis presided over the liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica and gave the homily, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, was the main celebrant at the altar.

In his homily the pope reflected on how Catholics begin a new year by contemplating the motherhood of Mary, who “blesses us and brings us the tender love of God made flesh.”

“Mary gives us hope,” he said, and “at the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the earth needs rain.”

Pope Francis asked people pray to Mary to accompany the late Pope Benedict XVI on his journey “from this world to God.” And, before leading the recitation of the Angelus prayer after the Mass, the pope asked that people “all join together, with one heart and one soul, in thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the church,” who died Dec. 31.

During the Mass, the prayers of the faithful included a petition that the Lord “welcome him kindly into the kingdom of light and peace.”

In his homily, the pope also asked people to pray to Mary “for her sons and daughters who are suffering and no longer have the strength to pray, and for our many brothers and sisters throughout the world who are victims of war, passing these holidays in darkness and cold, in poverty and fear, immersed in violence and indifference!”

God wants to bring his peace into people’s homes, hearts and world, he said. Yet to receive that peace the faithful must go “with haste” to encounter the Lord, just as the shepherds of Bethlehem did.

“If we are to welcome God and his peace, we cannot stand around complacently, waiting for things to get better,” the pope said. “We need to get up, recognize the moments of grace, set out and take a risk.”

“Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good,” he said.

With the beginning of a new year, the pope said, people need to take time out from their busy lives to grow closer to God, “to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him.”

Devoting time to what really matters also includes dedicating time to others, he added, for example, by listening to others, especially the elderly, and talking “with our children, to ask them about how they really are, and not simply about their studies or their health.”

In his Angelus address after the Mass, the pope said that Mary reminds the faithful that “if we truly want the new year to be good, if we want to reconstruct hope, we need to abandon the language, those actions and those choices inspired by egoism.”

People must “learn the language of love, which is to take care … of our lives, of our time, of our souls; to take care of creation and the environment we live in; and even more, to take care of our neighbors, of those whom the Lord has placed alongside us, as well as our brothers and sisters who are in need and who call for our attention and our compassion,” he said.