As the new year approaches, it is a customary practice to take a hard look back, reflecting on the previous twelve months, and to make some resolutions for the future. Although many do make a plan to begin anew, a staggering 80% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February. Clearly, it doesn’t take very long for most people to fall off the bandwagon.
There are basically two types of people who fail to keep their resolutions. Those who lack the internal discipline to persevere when the going gets tough, and those who do have the fortitude, but put off self-improvement attempts thinking that they’ll have more time at some later date to pursue these goals. Often that time never arrives as the days and weeks blend into months; the months into years; and the years into decades with barely a notice.
At Good Moral Compasses we have encouraged you to bolster up your spiritual life if you are to be a true soldier for Christ in the great spiritual battle that is unfolding right before our very eyes. Many of us don’t even recognize our own country anymore, yet alone the church -especially with the seemingly endless scandals and rampant heresies flying about. How many of us have wanted to do more in this great battle only to be distracted by the affairs of the world? Perhaps we rationalize that we are too busy and don’t have the time right now, that other more pressing concerns need the focus of our attention.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who plans on expanding his business by building more grain storage facilities to house his abundant harvest.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus, will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” 12:20-21
This is certainly a cautionary tale for the workaholic types who seemingly prioritize earthly success (be that a more prestigious title at work, larger home, better car, exotic vacations or plethora of material goods) above the condition of their souls. For these folks their identities are so wrapped up in a career and their professional reputations, that there is little room for anyone or anything else. As a society we tend to praise this group as being, “accomplished” or “successful.” While working hard and using the gifts God gave you is an admirable quality, it should not be at the expense of your family or your spiritual life. “I wish I had spent more time at work,” says no one on their death bed as they realize that the hands of time can never be unwound.
The reason the rest of us often fail to change is deeply rooted within human nature. It is so hard to alter former patterns of behaviors as we have both carnal and psychological needs and are essentially weak beings. Jesus was well aware of this as he told his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane to, “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” Matthew 26:41. These frequent human failures often lead to disappointment and discouragement and as a result we totally abandon our best laid plans in an all-or-none type mindset.
The only way you can really store up “what matters to God” is through daily prayer. Make this your New Year’s resolution. In order to succeed in this endeavor, one has to embed prayer into your daily life. Say a morning prayer as you awake thanking God for another day, a quick prayer before meals, or a rosary when you commute to work or run errands in your car. You can also say a prayer before bed. There are now many Catholic apps available that can be used to assist you in your prayer life which will both remind you and encourage you to pray on a daily basis.
Also try to get back into the swing of attending mass each Sunday. The unnecessary and unfortunate closure of churches and the release of obligatory mass attendance during the pandemic has changed many people’s lives, and not for the better. It has been estimated that weekend mass attendance has dropped by 14% as many Catholics, “are accustomed to not being in church.” You’ll have to try to get back on track if you took a few years off during Covid.
You can also consider attending weekly adoration, joining a pro-life group, or participating in another ministry at your parish this year. Why not abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year (not just during Lent) or fast one day each week with a simple bread and soup meal? It is important to not to let a few missteps here and there derail your efforts.
Whether you are the workaholic, the weakling, or a little of both, use your greatest gift, the time you have left on this earth to be rich in what matters to God. At this time next year, God willing, you will be honestly able to say you stood shoulder to shoulder with other faithful spiritual warriors and faced the demons head on.