The beginning of the year is a popular time for personal reassessment. The earth has finished one more revolution around the sun, and swings low over the cold January horizon, just like last year. The days are shorter, and an evening of introspection seems more inviting. Somehow, when we take down the old calendar and tack up the new, we sense an opportunity to make a fresh start.
To make the best of this opportunity (which, truthfully, exists in June just as it does in January), it’s useful to make firm commitments. It’s even more useful to write them down. These resolutions — kept in a desk drawer or on the refrigerator door — are a “hard copy” of our best intentions for self-improvement. They’re signposts that redirect our lives towards good, towards God.
Often New Year’s resolutions are about personal health, such as losing weight, relaxing more, or smoking less. And it is important, of course, to take good care of our bodies. But Christianity offers us a fuller concept of self-improvement. St. Paul reminds us that both the body and the soul need an exercise program. In fact, every aspect of our persons — physical, mental, spiritual, emotional — can benefit from an annual self-audit.
Some people have taken to heart this multi-faceted concept of the self, and each year make one resolution for each area. For instance, one could resolve to join a rosary prayer group to work on spirituality, or take a continuing education course to build mental skills. Still other people use the three theological virtues — faith, hope, and love — to guide their resolution-making process.
By now you may have discerned a similarity between New Year’s resolutions and Stewardship commitments. First, we use a similar method to think about Stewardship, by breaking it down into more specific concepts: time, talent, and treasure. Second, to become better stewards, we write down our commitments. We record our good intentions to clarify exactly what they are — and to remind us of our commitment on the evenings when the Rosary group interferes with a bowl game.
Any serious commitment shares the same components — it is specific, and it is written. From marriages to mortgages, treaties to trades — serious resolutions are spelled out, literally and figuratively.
But even more important than the methodology of a commitment is the heart of the person who makes it. Even the most well-written job descriptions are useless unless there is someone to do the job well! Let us pray that this new year is a time of grace and wisdom for those of us who seek to recommit our lives to our family, our parish, and our God.