By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III | Published January 6, 2023 | En Español
The beginning of a new year is a time when many resolve to be more self-disciplined in order to improve their health and lifestyle. However, as good as resolutions are for self-improvement, they may have nothing to do with giving glory to God.
I remember the first meeting with my spiritual director in the seminary when I told him of my plans at the beginning an academic year. After listening to my plan for growth in life, he gave some words of advice: “God is not concerned about your plan, but does have a plan for you; you need to be open to this plan as you discern his will for you may be planning a life where God has no room to maneuver and you are in control of all the interruptions and desired outcomes.”
Many of us have heard the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” But the greater truth that matters more is that “God helps those who pray.” The best resolution for the new year should center on God’s relationship to us and in discovering his will and providential care.
In the Gospel account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, we can assume that Martha was a good planner with hospitality. However, Martha did not plan for her sister Mary to remain idle and not assist in the serving. As a result, Martha never got to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him speak. Mary, on the other hand had chosen the better portion, which was her resolution at the beginning of the visit from the Lord.
During the Christmas season, we contemplate how nothing was planned to the last detail in the Nativity of Our Lord. Mary and Joseph found the stable only because there was no room for them in the inn. The shepherds were guided to the manger by an angel, and the Magi were guided by a star to worship the newborn King. The most important resolution of all the characters we hear of at the Nativity of Our Lord was in allowing others to be guided by God rather than relying on their own understanding and resources. At the Baptism of Our Lord, we see that Jesus himself was led by the Spirit and not by a desire to better himself.
We may make resolutions and plans concerning how we might be better off in the future and have greater success. I am sure that all of us want to be proud of some achievement, make ourselves feel better and experience greater independence. We may decide to lose weight or decide to change a pattern or begin a new project, which may only further a sense of pride and self-sufficiency. We reason that if we exercise greater self-control that we will be better off as we take greater control of our life.
But life is not something we manufacture or manipulate. We need to give God a say about our lives. Life is a gift from God, and peace is Christ’s gift. He sustains our lives with his grace if we open ourselves to receive it. As we begin this new year, dedicating time to listen to God will make all the difference because the fullness of life is not found in achieving something but in receiving Someone and living in the light of his love.