As 2016 draws to a close, I hope you are able to give thanks for the many ways God has been present and active in your life this year. In order to plan for a new year, it is helpful to take stock of my awareness of God’s presence and action in this past year. I’ll readily admit, I’m often so consumed with meeting the demands of the ‘present’ that I can tend to lose sight at times of what God is doing and how God has been answering all of my prayers.
January 1st is always a Holy Day in the Church, a day we mark by celebrating the Motherhood of Mary. This is a great beginning to every year, to be mindful of the birth of Jesus Christ, born not just in time through the Incarnation, but desiring to be born into every human life. With Mary as the Mother of God and our Mother, we are reminded that the primary goal of every year is to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ.
I normally do not put much personal energy into making new year’s resolutions. But, what I do over and over again through each year is renew my prayer life – which is all about keeping my relationship with Jesus. When we take our prayer life seriously, our relationship with Jesus intentionally, we are growing in holiness. This is God’s desire for all of us:
This is the will of God, your holiness: (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
When we are in regular conversation with Jesus through prayer and the sacramental life of the Church, the Holy Spirit is always helping us understand the areas of our life that are in need of conversion. This conversion will touch every aspect of our life, from spiritual to professional; physical to relational; mental and emotional.
At the end of every day, I try to make what St. Ignatius calls an examine of consciousness – notice, not just of conscience, but of heightening my awareness to the ways God has been active in my life that day, and how well or poorly I have responded. This is not just a scrupulous exercise looking only for sinful behaviors. I let the Holy Spirit guide me through the day, giving thanks for the presence and action of God, and especially for my ability to cooperate, as well as an honest recognition of failures and sinful actions. If I am faithful to this practice, then every day becomes a certain kind of setting ‘resolutions’ which are driven by the Holy Spirit and the Providence of God.
So, if you are looking to make just one New Year’s resolution – resolve to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ – and he will lead you by his grace and your cooperation to a truly improved and meaningful life; a life of holiness and purpose according to God’s plan and God’s Kingdom.