As Christians, we celebrate the New Year twice! Of course, there’s the new year that we celebrate on January 1st, but TODAY, the First Sunday of Advent marks a new year for us as well. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably given up on making New Year’s Resolutions because so often we stop making them to avoid breaking them! I also stopped making them on that one day of the year, because I found it was important to my life as a Christian to make resolutions all the time throughout my life. IT IS important to capitalize on occasions and events, especially those that beget reflection and contemplating life. Maybe for some of us, like me – January 1st has lost that appeal. For us Catholic Christians (and many other Christians who celebrate Advent too) we ought to take this very first day of the New Year in the liturgical year as an opportunity to make some Christian resolutions.
Christian resolutions might include to find ways to be more committed to our Christian lives; a resolution to be a better Christian this year than we already are. Maybe to try a new form of prayer that we live in faith and hope will deepen our relationship with Jesus. Maybe to be cognizant of our time and finding a way to give ever so slightly more time (or a lot more time if we can) to helping others or being with loved ones and those in need. Giving money and material things are very important of course, but in the world we all live in with lives seeming busier and busier – time is of the essence. As a family, we might consider a way we could pray together in an engaging and meaningful way. As a family, we might begin the “New Advent Year” by coming up with a way to put together a Christmas hamper to give to another family in need. Our Advent Resolution might also be to really take time to consider how we might become more free to live and give ourselves as Christians in a world that like it or not, needs the strong and solid Christian witness now more than ever.
As you can see, I am only reaching the tip of the iceberg here.
I might also suggest that there is a big difference between worldly resolutions and Christian ones. It’s been my own experience that when we fail, the world isn’t always friendly to these failures. How many of us have made the New Year’s resolution to “get fit” and then find things get in the way of that and yet we’ve got this gym membership we’re paying dearly for all year? Or we sign up to play a sport and then we find it impossible to make it? The difference is that our Lord is a Lord of encouragement and love. We celebrate the Son of God coming into the world when we, as a People of God got things so completely wrong, and He brought us back again. And He keeps bringing us back. Advent is a time that most of our parishes have Reconciliation Services (I spend a lot of time in Advent & Lent going to many of those parishes), with many priests hearing many confessions. I often offer to people I meet in the confessional this thought or perspective: Jesus calls us to “be perfect as My Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48)” but then in His deep love for us, gives us the “gift” of confession when we’ve fallen short. Perfection is still and always our goal and the desired end for a Christian, but we have an understanding God who loves us despite our failings, falls, shortcomings, weakness – He loves us no matter what and encourages us to just pick ourselves up and keep trying.
Broken “resolutions” are just a sign we need to keep working at it; joyful and determined to be the best Christians we can be. As we begin this season of Advent, let’s all make the commitment to make more of an effort to be the people our Lord and God created us to be; if each of us do that one more little thing: the world will be transformed by it.
A short reflection based on Fr. Chris’ homily given at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish on the First Sunday of Advent.