Is the holiday season over yet? Have we spent some good time breathlessly visiting family, getting in all those traditions, whirling from uncle to brother to cousin? I certainly have, but I have to tell ya, I’m also looking forward to getting back to the regular old routine. All this visiting and spending time with extended family sure can be exhausting. The only thing left is to welcome in the New Year.
This is the part where we make certain resolutions to do things better, to really turn things around this time, or maybe just a resolution to actually stick to a resolution. I think it’s a nice idea. We should take some time to look back at the previous year and think on the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s also nice to want to do things differently, to make improvements on ourselves, how we do things, or our lot in life. We can usually read a flurry of articles on the subject giving advice on the best gyms to “finally turn that keg into a six pack” or how we can make good on our resolutions to finally do whatever it is we’re gonna do to make it all better.
I guess it’s a good thing to want to lose weight or find the dream job, but maybe we can find time in all the revelry to think on some more subtle resolutions that can help us on that whole spiritual side of things. Maybe it’s time to think about how we can improve the state of our souls and our relationships with God and the ways we can actually go about doing it. Unfortunately, this kind of change takes time and perseverance, two things our fast-food/give-it-to-me-now American society doesn’t seem to like very much. Call me a revolutionary, but I’m gonna put this out there anyways:
Self Honesty: One of the toughest things that I, along with a few other folks, struggle with is the ability to actually be honest with myself. Self-honesty is crucial when it comes to a thorough examination of conscience, but also when we look at ourselves, our ideas, our Faith, and how we’re living our lives. The biggest thing that gets in the way of self-honesty is pride. Pride tells us that there is nothing wrong with us, that we are doing everything perfectly. Being that there was only one human created without the stain of original sin, I would wager that you and I ALWAYS have something to work on. Make this a resolution to ask God to help us see ourselves the way He does and not the way we want.
Attachment to Things: Here’s a tough one. If Jesus walked into your home, looked around, and asked you to sell everything you own and come follow Him, would you be able to? If you’re jumping out of your seat shouting yes, I refer you to the first resolution. Back? Ok, it might be nice to think about, but look around your house, apartment, whatever right now. Look at all your pictures. Your iPhone. Could you sell it all, give the money to the poor and follow Jesus if He walked into the door and asked you to? Ok, this is an extreme example, and we are not all called to live in the kind of poverty that certain religious are, but we are called to seek God and not be attached to the things we have. They are just things and will one day no longer exist. They really aren’t THAT important. Make this resolution to ask God to help us not be attached to the things of this world, but to seek God as the ultimate Provider of what we need.
Charity: We live a pretty comfortable life here in the good ol’ US of A. In fact, most of those whom we deem to be “poor” live more comfortably than most of the rest of the world. Just having clean running water separates us from a good part of the herd. I always thought to myself during those silly “Occupy” protests who were all out against those evil one percent people, that America as a whole is the world’s one percent. There is an interesting Youtube video that starkly contrasts the third world and the first world. Is it possible that we, regardless of our income, can find some extra money to give to those who are in need? Maybe those in need in a different country? Instead of that weekly dining out or that daily Starbucks latte can we make a sacrifice out of the comforts of our own lives to help someone? I’m not talking that whole sappy “give of your time, talent, and treasure” bit. I think we can all sacrifice some of that which we don’t actually need so we can give a bit more to those who actually need it. Give to your parish, or a religious order that helps people in Africa. Find something. There are so many things that we take for granted here in America of which some of the people over in the slums of India wouldn’t even be able to dream. Make this a resolution to make a larger monetary sacrifice to help those who don’t have the nice apartment/house/whatever but live with a dirt floor and no clean, running water. This resolution can be a lot easier if we successfully execute the second resolution. They are all connected, ya know. For more great ideas on this particular resolution and the one on attachment, check out Father Thomas Dubay’s “Happy Are You Poor.”
And so there they are; three New Year’s resolutions that can make a big impact. Sure nothing’s going to solve all the world’s problems over night, but it’s always a good thing to try, nonetheless. The best way to change anything is to start first with ourselves. As Mother Theresa once put it, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” We can’t all be the big hero, the one that swoops in to save the day. But we can do small acts. We can do one thing to make someone else’s day a little brighter. We can give some money to the guy pushing the shopping cart down the street. We can show the Light of Christ to those who are struggling to find any light at all just by helping someone carry their groceries to their car. Those are the truly heroic acts, those small things with great love. Have a blessed 2016.