Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Looking backwards in gratitude for the past year was an appropriate thing to do as we came to the final days of December. When we take the time to do so, it is relatively easy to discern what we should be thankful for in our lives, in our families and in our community.
As for the year ahead, we have no idea what it holds in store for us, but we can pray with confidence that our Lord will be with us every step of our journey into 2019. In addition to prayer, the practice of making resolutions for the new year is a positive exercise. No matter what is coming around the bend to surprise us, either with joy or sorrow, we do have a pretty good idea of what we need to do to become the better version of ourselves.
Each new year begins on January 1st with the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. From antiquity, Mary has been called “Theotokos”, or “God-Bearer” (Mother of God). The month of January ends on the 31st with the memorial of Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), “Father and Teacher of Youth.” He dedicated his life to the betterment and education of children and disadvantaged youth. In between these bookends of January are the national holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 21, and the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, on January 22.
These four January events can help us focus on becoming better people and better Catholics. It’s not that we aren’t already striving to live good lives, but Jesus always calls us to grow in holiness and faith. It requires humility to accept that we are sinners before God and with great sorrow to “…firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.” Why? Because our sins “…offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.” Hence, new year resolutions can be good tools for turning away from sin and towards loving God with our whole mind, our whole heart and our whole soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Recognizing my own sinfulness, need for repentance, and need to grow in grace following Christ more closely, I want to share with you some of my personal resolutions for the new year.
- I resolve to be more kind, gentle and loving towards all people.
- I plan to be more respectful in discourse and presence with everyone, including those who do not treat me in the same manner.
- I plan to listen more and to judge less.
- I will add one public holy hour a month to my daily private holy hours and invite the faithful and my brother priests and deacons to join me.
- And yes, I plan to exercise more and lose weight.
There is an old Catholic custom in some countries to begin the new year with the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit). I’m drawn to the final petition of the hymn:
Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray, give them virtue’s sure reward; give them your salvation, Lord; give them joys that never end.
These petitions are good resolutions for the new year. We all need to bend our hearts to God’s will. To melt our frozen resentments and forgive others. To warm our cold indifference, especially towards the poor and those in need. To be led back to the path of gospel living. To grow in virtue and holiness, which is our salvation and our joy, in this life and in the next.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.