By FATHER PAUL A. BURKE | Published January 22, 2004
Each New Year brings with it countless possibilities of resolutions that we would like to make: lose weight; gain weight; be more diligent in studies; be a better friend; be more respectful towards our parents and teachers; or spend less time on the Internet or watching TV.
Usually we look at the year that has passed to see the highs and the lows–to see the good and the bad. And then we look to the future.
There is something in our human spirit that loves the idea of something new: new beginnings, a fresh start, a blank slate, turning the corner, a New Year. The “spirit of the season” prompts us to make resolutions so that we gain much more fulfillment in life.
While we make many wonderful resolutions, it is going to be very difficult to fulfill them if we leave things to our own devices. That is why we need to place God at the center. Do our resolutions bring honor and glory to God?
For example, I want to lose weight! Why? Is it because I want to fit into a smaller size and appear more attractive for a possible date? I want to work out every day! Fair enough! Is it because I want to have great abs that are sure to draw attention to me?
Our resolutions will amount to nothing if we look at “our” power to fulfill them. God must be at the center. How about doing these things because of our belief that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit”? In striving to be healthy, and doing whatever is necessary to attain it, we can bring glory to God who has created us. Proverbs 16:3 reads: “Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Great advice. Entrust your resolutions to the Lord and you will succeed!
What I propose is that we make God-centered resolutions. New Year’s resolutions can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth. In humility before God, we recognize that we still have room to grow and we demonstrate our willingness to allow God to shape us.
The daily struggle to keep our resolutions reminds us of our utter dependence on God for strength and wisdom. Looking back gives us the opportunity to thank Him for His faithfulness and for His never-ending love in our lives.
Experience shows us that it is difficult to keep resolutions. Sometimes we become frustrated and say, “It’s not worth it.” One of the reasons we don’t succeed in fulfilling our resolutions is because we make too many of them! This may sound strange but when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, keep them short and simple because keeping them requires daily attention.
Trusting in our own power, we easily become discouraged and accept failure. That is why each day we must surrender our will to God, acknowledge the commitment we have made, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. If we falter, let’s not give up. Begin again where you are, not looking back with regret and frustration. Rely on God for the strength to follow through.
One of the ways to start off the New Year in the right way is to take the opportunity to go to the sacrament of reconciliation. In preparing for confession, we look back at those areas of our lives where we have sinned and fallen short of the love of God. We confess those sins entrusting them to the mercy of God. And then we receive the greatest gift of all–the Lord’s forgiveness as the priest says, “Through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace. I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is truly a new beginning! Now we are in a position to make some great resolutions!
Recently, a friend of mine gave me a great resource to help me keep my New Year’s resolutions. I offer this to you. It involves five simple steps:
1. REVIEW – Ask God to reveal areas of consistent sin or neglect in your life. As you pray, review your life in light of God’s love – how well have I loved God and my neighbor?
2. REPENT – Go to the sacrament of reconciliation. Experience firsthand the great love and mercy of God who forgives all of our sins. Give control of your life over to God.
3. RESOLVE – Resolve before God that you will be faithful to Him, realizing that you will succeed with His grace.
4. RECORD – Write down your resolutions, put them in your Bible and refer to them frequently throughout the year. Why not spend some time with the Lord in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as you reflect on them?
5. RENEW – Renew your love for God and neighbor every day. Perhaps attend daily Mass and spend more time in Christian service.
Let us pray that this year will be one filled with God’s blessings and that He continue to guide and direct us in fulfilling His will in our lives. And above all, as we make our New Year’s resolutions, may we remember the words of St. Paul: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
Father Burke is chaplain at Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fairburn.