Sunday, December 31, 2006

Struggling With New Year Resolutions

Making New Year Resolutions can be a daunting experience, especially for those who have in the past broken so many of them in the month of January. It seems to me that our good resolutions only stay fresh in our minds for such a short time, and then they begin to dissolve. We seem to be much more comfortable returning to our old ways, as we accept our failure to be perfect without a whimper.
Dare we make any new resolutions this year, when we have so little confidence in our own moral perfection? It is a puzzle.
However, before you get down on yourself too unkindly, permit me reacquaint you with a few Biblical figures. Comparisons are odious, but this little exercise may help you to realize, that all things considered, you're not such a bad egg after all.
A long-time Jesuit friend, Father Bill O'Malley, whose writing is known to the readers of America Magazine, has written on the topic. He has a web site (, on which he produces a series of homilies entitled, "Sermons Unsuited for Sheep."
In one of these colorful offerings, which was based on the Gospel of St. Mark 10:35-45, he reminds us how James and John failed to live up to the high ideals of an apostle by making their position in the Kingdom their main concern.
These brothers who had been allowed to hear the actual Sermon on the Mount, and who were with Jesus constantly for the three years of his public ministry, and who even witnessed the triumph of the Transfiguration, fell back into a state of raw ambition. They began promoting themselves, as O'Malley puts it, "to see who would become a cardinal, and who would remain just a priest in the Kingdom to come."
Jesus reproached them both gently. The Lord always seemed to hope for the best and expect the worst. He knew that even the great heroes of the Bible were just human beings. These Biblical icons, "so sanitized and heroicized by homilists, often yielded to temptations far more monstrous than most of us would even dare to consider."
O'Malley continues. "The great Abraham, our father in faith, pimped his wife Sarah, into rich men's harems to save his own skin, (Genesis 12, 10-20). And Moses, the greatest figure in Hebrew scripture tried to stammer his way out of his mission. Even King David, the reputed writer of the Psalms, became an adulterer and a murderer."
In the light of such hypocrisies, who are you to get on your high horse about expecting to achieve perfection. Ponder the impact of original sin on all human beings.
The purpose of this exercise is not to stress your weakness so much, as it is to see better, the urgency of turning to God for help.
If you want to make a good resolution for the coming New Year, why not decide to pray deeply at least once a week. Get inside yourself and face your weaknesses as best you can; remembering that they are merely human defects, which you share with every saint who has ever lived. Then pray for the grace of God to overcome what you do not like.
Just looking at yourself honestly, and asking God for help once a week, may be as good a resolution as you'll ever make. Happy New Year!

by Father John Catoir

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