In 2013, Make a “New You” Resolution

Welcome to 2013! I know I’m a little late on the happy New Year greeting, but I’ve been enjoying some time off. I’m going to keep this short and reiterate what I said last year. Do not make “praying more” or “becoming more spiritual” your new year’s resolution! Making something a resolution is the surest way you will abandon it by February.

As I said in last year’s new year’s article:

I think many New Year’s resolutions fail because they have no roots in your life.  A New Year’s resolution is like a thin layer of top soil that blows away with the slightest disturbance.  For example, your effort to exercise derails the first time you skip the gym.  Or your effort to lose weight flies out the window at the first social gathering.  The problem often lies in that we are still fundamentally the same person, with the same flaws and weaknesses, on 1/1 as we were on 12/31.  Our lives are not like nutrient-rich soil for our resolutions to take root and fundamentally transform who we are.

So instead of a new year’s resolution, make a “new you” resolution; one you will keep for the rest of your life.  Make yourself into the “nutrient-rich” soil so that whatever you set you mind to, whether it be more prayer, losing weight, or giving up some vice, will actually become obtainable and sustaining.  Where do you start?  How about with the Sacrament of Confession?  I can’t think of a better way to start the year than wiping the slate clean and living in God’s grace.  Confession is a way to clear away those “weeds” in your life that choke and prevent goodness from taking root and springing up.  Remove the weeds and a better you will grow.  Not removing the weeds of sin will only make improving your life that much more difficult.

 

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

 

The ball is in your court.  Will you ditch the new year’s resolution and take up a “new you” challenge in 2013?

 

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What is the Solemnity of Mary?

We celebrate the feast of the Solemnity of Mary on New Year‘s day, January 1st. But what exactly is the solemnity of Mary? In plain speak, we celebrate Mary’s motherhood to God made man in Jesus Christ. It is one of the oldest feast days in the Catholic Church dating back to the 5th century. The feast started when early Christians were still debating Jesus’ divinity. When the Church decreed that Christ was both God and man, it followed that Mary was the “Mother of God” and that is what we celebrate on this feast.

Georges de La Tour: Adoration of the shepherds...

The Gospel reading for this feast day continues the nativity story revolving around the shepherds praising the newborn king in the manger. And so it is fitting to remember the Third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity, not only on Christmas, but on this day too. We are like the shepherds — doing our work and going about our business. But when the Lord calls us and reveals Himself to us in our lives, we should make “with haste” like the shepherds did in the Gospel to praise and honour Him.

I know that on January 1st I want to curl up in a warm house and watch college football (go Stanford in the Rose Bowl!). I wouldn’t say I’m particularly excited about getting up early, getting dressed, and heading to Mass for an hour. But then I remember the shepherds from the Gospel. When the angel of the Lord appeared to them, they immediately dropped what they were doing and went to the manger to praise Jesus. Luke’s Gospel said that they went “with haste.” They didn’t ignore the angel or take their time getting to the manger. No one said, “I’m set for the night and pretty comfortable; I’ll just stay where I am.” Similarly, God calls us to come and celebrate the Nativity, the Holy Family, and pray for peace. And can you think of a better way of starting the year than in Mass? Here we not only honour Mary and Jesus, but can also give thanksgiving to God for last year while laying down before Him our intentions for the next.

Oh, did I mention that the Solemnity of Mary is also a holy day of obligation? It is no different from our obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. That means skipping Mass without a valid reason is a sin. And sorry, your hang over from New Year’s Eve is not a valid reason. Sinning on the first day of the year isn’t exactly the best start is it? However, make the most of this holy day of obligation and don’t go to Mass simply because you have to. Think of Mass as your spiritual new year’s celebration. Embrace the Eucharist, pray for peace, and celebrate the gift of faith.

Happy New Year!

Update: As with many other feast days, the Solemnity of Mary isn’t a holy day of obligation in some dioceses and countries.  Please check with your parish.  As an editorial, I find it odd that skipping Mass on January 1st will be a sin for some, but not for others depending on your address.

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Do You Ask for Holiness?

Do you ask for holiness?  Seriously, how many times do you pray and ask God to make you holier?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t ask nearly enough.  My prayers usually revolve around asking God for other things like, “help so-and-so with an illness,” “help so-and-so with his job,” “give me the strength to be a good person,” etc.  But it never really occurs to me to ask for more holiness.  And yet, being holy should be at the top of our list of things to ask from God when we pray since it is the root of all good things.

Mother Teresa
Morther Teresa isn't the only one called to be holy

Holiness isn’t something reserved exclusively for Jesus, the saints, priests and nuns.  And yet we often think that because we don’t receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we don’t have a calling to be holy.  We often set a high bar for priests to always do the right thing and never sin.  And yet we don’t apply those same standards to ourselves.  We sometimes rationalize that because we aren’t a priest or nun, it’s ok to commit “little” sins, avoid praying, and not follow Church doctrine.  However, God calls everyone to lead a holy life regardless of vocation.

At its core, holiness is the recognition that God has set us apart from the rest of His creation for a special purpose.  We are called to imitate God for He is good.  Hence, we are meant to be good.  We must understand that holiness is a cause, not an effect.  It is the root from which all good things flow.  For example, someone is not holy because he does works of charity.  He does works of charity because he is holy.  Notice that holiness is the cause and good works are the effect.  Someone is not holy because she prays.  She prays because she is holy.  Think of holiness as the seed God plants in all of us that enables us to live according to His will.  Without that seed, true good cannot flourish since we do not have that recognition of God in our life.

There are many mysteries of the rosary that refer to our call to live holy lives.  Think about the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ Call for Conversion.  Being holy means aligning our souls to be more in line with how God calls us.  And that is exactly what Jesus asks of us in this mystery — convert those aspects of your life that are not aligned with God to become more aligned with Him.  In other words, Jesus calls us to become holier.  This is challenging because how many people like to examine their lives, see what is wrong with it, and then resolve to change it?  Most of us would rather just continue living assuming we are holy enough and being any more holy would just cramp our lifestyle.  Being holy means that you also acknowledge that there is more you can do to imitate God’s ways.  When we pray the rosary, challenge yourself to examine those aspects of your life where you are not as holy as you could be and then ask God for more holiness.  I’m sure God will be more than happy to grant more holiness to those who sincerely ask for it.

If you still think holiness is not important, consider this study.  The Barna Group conducted a survey of church-going Christians.  Of those surveyed, 46% said that their lives were largely unchanged from going to church.  Furthermore, the study showed that Catholics felt less positive effects from Mass than Protestants.  This study points to what I said in a previous article — Mass is becoming more of a social gathering rather than an opportunity to connect with God (aka, become holier).  There is saying about exercise and athletics — You only get as much out of it as you put into it.  The same goes with Mass and prayer.  Do so many people get so little from their Mass experience because they aren’t putting much prayer into it?  Do they come to Mass with the intention of asking God for more holiness and how they can convert to live as God calls them?  Or do people put more thought into what they will eat after Mass is over?

Remember, holiness is the root of a spiritually healthy life.  Without holiness, truly good things cannot flourish.  And it will take more than a handful of holy priests, nuns, and saints for goodness to spread across this world.  It takes each and every one of us trying to be as holy as possible.  So the next time you pray and ask God to hear your intentions, make it a point to ask Him for the will and strength to be holier.

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Do Not Make Prayer Your New Year’s Resolution

English: New Year's Day postcard mailed in 190...Just what you need, another New Year’s resolution idea right?  That is why I’m not going to suggest that you make a resolution to pray more in 2012.  I’m not suggesting this because I don’t want prayer to join “getting in better shape,” “getting more organized,” and “quitting [insert vice here]” in the pile of resolutions that you will abandon by February.  It almost feels like something labeled a “New Year’s Resolution” is almost guaranteeing it will be forgotten come Martin Luther King Day.  So no, I’m not going to suggest making “more prayer” a New Year’s resolution.

I think many New Year’s resolutions fail because they have no roots in your life.  A New Year’s resolution is like a thin layer of top soil that blows away with the slightest disturbance.  For example, your effort to exercise derails the first time you skip the gym.  Or your effort to lose weight flies out the window at the first social gathering.  The problem often lies in that we are still fundamentally the same person, with the same flaws and weaknesses, on 1/1 as we were on 12/31.  Our lives are not like nutrient-rich soil for our resolutions to take root and fundamentally transform who we are.

How do I transform my life into something better and more fulfilling?  Well, any long time reader of my articles or someone just glancing at the title of my website will know the answer.  Prayer!  Honest, heart-felt prayer (especially the rosary) is one of the key ingredients to transforming yourself into living a better life.  Unlike a resolution that addresses the outer layers of who we are, prayer helps builds and strengthen our foundation making us more receptive to how God calls us to live.  God, through the Holy Spirit, will give us the strength to do what is important, the understanding to ignore what is not so important, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

We remember our call to conversion in the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary — Jesus‘ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven AND the Call to Conversion.  Jesus does not ask us to make a few little tweaks and resolutions in our lives.  He goes much further than that.  Jesus calls us to fundamentally change who we are.  As humans we are fundamentally flawed, first by original sin and then by our weakness of committing other sins.  So there is little wonder why we are subject to fail living God’s will.  But Jesus and His Church teaches that we all have the ability to convert our lives and truly live in God’s grace.  We can do this through prayer and receiving the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  When we focus our lives around prayer our souls become like nutrient-rich soil ready to bare the fruit of God’s grace.  Jesus used this soil analogy throughout His teachings.  In Mark 4:1-20, He talks about seed being scattered on the ground and how only the seed that fell on good soil grew strong.  Ask yourself, is your soul “good soil?”

Again, don’t make prayer a New Year’s resolution.  Make prayer the root of your life’s transformation!  Have the courage to allow God to fundamentally change who you are.  You will like what God can do to you when you let Him into your life and listen to Him in prayer.

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