Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolved for holiness


Happy New Year! As we gather on this first day of a new year and a new decade, we celebrate something that has a dual nature – both secular and religious. Today marks an important moment in our secular calendar – the start of a new year – and an important day in our Church calendar – the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

This is historically a day to review the year past and look forward to the year ahead. It is rooted even in the name of the month we begin today. The name “January” comes from the Roman god Janus, who is depicted as the god with two faces, one face looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This is indeed a time to look back at the year that has just ended and to look forward to the new year ahead of us. How did I spend this one year of my life that has just passed? Could I have done better last year in the way I invested my time between the demands of work, family, friends and society, and the demands of my spiritual life? What things did I achieve last year and what did I fail to achieve? Through soul searching questions like these we find that a review of the past year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the new year.

New Year’s resolutions always seem silly to me. As I checked my email this past week, I was greeted with an online poll asking, “What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2010?” These were your choices, “Lose some weight, save more money, or find true love?” Of the nearly 800,000 people who’d answered the poll, 336,633 said lose weight, 263,532 want to save money, 152,802 said to find true love. Silly. And meaningless. Let’s face it. Most of us will probably lose some weight – and gain it back by this time next year; save some money – and spend it by this time next year; and fall in and out of love in the same amount of time.

Hopefully, these things are not what constitute a good year. Hopefully, this is not what constitutes worthy goals for living. Instead, imagine if the poll asked, “What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2010?” with these choices: spend more time with the people who love me, do my part to make the world a better place, be a person of peace, spend more time in prayer, be more like Christ. These are the kind of resolutions that are worthy of our time. These are the things that help us live better lives. These are the things that our minds and hearts should be focused on.

In the secular world, Christmas is already a distant memory – over and done with. Let’s move on to Valentine’s Day. In our Church world, the world of faith, the incredible event of Christmas, the incredible reality that our God came to be with us as one of us, is still with us because it is so powerful an event that we couldn’t possibly do it justice in just a day, we continue to reflect. And we will continue to reflect all the way until the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord on January 10th. Plenty of Christmas is left.

And our continued Christmas reflection today gives us Mary, the Mother of God to focus our minds and hearts on. And it is Mary who gives us the best example of how to achieve these better, holier resolutions for the year ahead. Our Gospel told us, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary is the model of that new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in this new year. But Mary did not merely wish that new life, when invited by God through the message of an angel to be a part of His incredible plan, she was resolved to do what God asked of her. She said yes and her will God’s word. So what did she do? “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary valued the Word of God, treasured it, meditated and pondered it, in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life as the handmaid of God – and then, so resolved, she obeyed that Word.

Right there is a difference between a resolution and a wish. Let’s face it, losing some weight is a wish. Winning the lottery is a wish. A wish identifies a goal you want to reach, but a resolution specifies the concrete steps you will take to reach it. A wish says this is where I want to be, a resolution says this is the road I will take, this is what I will do to get there. The wishful person says “I want to pass my exams this year” and the resolved person says “I will devote an extra hour to my studies every day in order to pass my exams.” The wishful person says “I want to have more peace and love in my family this year” and the resolved person says “I will spend more time with my family at table instead of rushing off to the TV, so that we get to know and understand each other better.” The wishful person says “I will live a life of union with God this year” and the resolved person says “I will set aside time every day to pray and hear God's word.” The difference between wishing and resolving is this: are we prepared to do what it takes to make our goals come true, are we prepared to change as God calls us to?

On this day of prayer, this day of peace, let us look to Mary as our model. Let us reflect in our hearts on what our God is calling us to. Let us be so resolved this year to be people of peace, people of prayer, people who show forth God’s love to our world. Let us be so resolved to reflect upon all that God has revealed to us in our hearts, to discern His will in our lives, and to act upon His life-giving, life-saving, life-changing Word.

May God give you peace! Happy New Year!

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