Are you asking, ‘How would God like me to grow this year?’
Are you like me?
Every new year, I like to pause and ask the Lord, “What do you have in store for me this year? How would you like me to change and live differently?”
And then I wait for an answer.
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions. I like to make them with the Lord. Self-improvement is always a good resolution — eating healthier, exercising more, reading more good books. There are many ways to improve yourself, but let me encourage you —– when you look at improving your life —– to be sure to include your spiritual life. Ask yourself, “What can I do better to draw closer to God this year?”
Perhaps your resolution might be to start regular daily prayer. If this is new to you, I encourage you to start small, with five minutes, and keep it up every day, slowly growing it over time. Attend Mass every Sunday or, if you already do so, perhaps try going to Mass one additional day a week. Start reading the Bible each day. Serve at a soup kitchen or food pantry.
There are so many ways to grow closer to God and our neighbor in the new year! What is God calling you to?
Another great time to pause and examine our lives is Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. (The date this year may make giving up chocolates a bit harder!)
Lent is a great time to look at our spiritual life. Prayer, almsgiving and fasting are three key attributes of our lives that we look at each Lent. Hopefully, these are spiritual practices that, once you begin, you will keep doing for the rest of your year. Lent is not just about suffering; it is a wonderful time to start something new or sacrifice something to become a better person and disciple of Christ.
(For more ideas, see my “Five Alive practices” at gbdioc.org/pastoralletter).
One excellent spiritual practice to help develop a new you in the new year is the sacrament of confession. It may have been 25 years since your last confession, but now is a great time to receive our Lord’s mercy and love.
People often envision confession as a scary encounter, yet I see it very differently — as a time to unburden myself of things that weigh me down (like shedding unwanted weight). So many times, I want to start new, healthy or spiritual practices and just don’t get around to them. Life’s burdens, my weaknesses and sins, and old, unhealthy patterns of behavior (vices) prevent me from living a healthy and holy life (virtues). Confession helps me name what’s holding me back, give it over to Jesus and let him give me the grace and strength I need to live differently.
My hope and prayer for each of you in this New Year is that you experience new life in Jesus. Every day (every moment!) is a new opportunity to experience the love, peace and mercy Jesus offers us. I pray this New Year that you experience these gifts abundantly as you draw closer to Christ.
P.S. I am so grateful to the Catholic Foundation and the annual Bishop’s Appeal that helps support Catholic Charities, Catholic schools and so many ministries in the Diocese of Green Bay. The Bishop’s Appeal begins Feb. 3-4. Your contributions help serve those in need, materially and spiritually. Thank you!