A Bishop's Perspective Bishop Burns

New beginnings in the new year

Bishop cropped
Bishop Edward J. Burns

I ‘googled’ New Year resolution statistics and found some interesting data from the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology dated January 1, 2014. They offered a list of the top ten New Year’s resolutions for 2014. They are: 1. Lose weight; 2. Getting organized; 3. Spend less and save more; 4. Enjoy life to the fullest; 5. Staying fit and healthy; 6. Learn something exciting; 7. Quit smoking; 8. Help others in their dreams; 9. Fall in love; and 10. Spend more time with family.

It seems as though from the statistics that 45 percent of Americans make one or more resolutions each year and 38 percent of the population never make any New Year’s resolutions. At the same time, only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolution. Nevertheless, the report finds that “people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” From my perspective, the New Year is a time for new beginnings and with every new beginning comes a sense of hope.

If we are going to set forth goals, we have to work at them. Scripture offers words of wisdom regarding what we reap. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians saying, “Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7) As we look at the New Year, we can envision a wide open field and a host of possibilities. If it is our desire to reap the benefits of our resolutions by the end of the year, it’s important that we start sowing today the seeds of what we see as our goals. St. Paul goes on to say that a person will reap either good or evil — depending on what has been sown. That is to say, if a person sows good seeds that bring about the best for themselves or others, then they will reap the benefits of their work for themselves and for others. For some, however, there are seeds sown that bring about destruction.

On Christmas Day I celebrated Mass for those incarcerated at Lemon Creek Prison. The Mass took place in the gymnasium. In asking for a volunteer to assist in doing the readings from Scripture, one young man was eager to help. He read the first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. He began by proclaiming to his fellow inmates, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!…’” After we had finished the Mass and singing our last Christmas hymn, I had the chance to thank the young inmate for reading the Scriptures. As we talked, I learned that he has a 3-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. The pain and sorrow he was experiencing on Christmas Day being away from home and not having the chance to be with them was evident. His convictions were alcohol related and he shared with his children he could not be home with them because he doing some “time out” for his mistakes in abusing alcohol.

The benefits of bettering ourselves have an effect not only in our own lives but also for those around us. When we take care of ourselves for all the right reason, that is, being proper caretakers of our bodies, our emotions, our appetites, our actions, etc., then we not only grow personally, but we also offer an example for the young people who observe us and we find ourselves in a position to help others. If we see the New Year as a chance to envision new beginnings in our lives, then it will be important for us to toil and labor, to sow and to work in order to reap a harvest that is good for us, our families and for society.

In a recent column on Pope Francis, I quoted his words to drug addicts at a hospital when he said, “We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to.

Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to standup, this is the indispensable condition! No one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you.”

So, if we’re not happy with the current “crop” we have harvested, then it is up to us to begin to plant a new crop and begin reaping the benefits of acting responsibly and doing things right — for ourselves and for others. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

• Burns is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

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