The first of January seemingly possesses the power to motivate us to dream again, formulate new goals, and take up new tasks. Our journey during the previous three hundred and sixty-five days probably had its share of pleasant, successful, dismal, and disappointing moments. Therefore, many receive the beginning of a new year with great hope and optimism as it represents a fresh start from a challenging one. Surely, we eagerly await beginning anew and living a prosperous year.
New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s resolutions express our resolve and determination to complete actions that will improve our lives. These are decisions based on either past experiences, personal development, or wants and desires. Yet, we often struggle with carrying them through until the end of the year. We wonder whether it is because our commitment fades over time, our perseverance and strength deplete, or our new resolutions are too ambitious. However, we could be overlooking other crucial factors that are hidden in a parable shared by Jesus of Nazareth.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells of a rich person whose land produced a bountiful harvest. The man asked himself, “‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ 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.” (Luke 12: 16-21)
God Has A Plan
The rich man deliberated on building larger barns to store all his grain and other products. But God had a different proposal in mind. He responded, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” Yes, these larger barns were not getting constructed no matter how much the rich man desired them or what he did. Sacred Scripture wisely states, “Plans are made in human hearts, but from the LORD comes the tongue’s response.” (Proverbs 16:18) Indeed, sometimes we form plans that do not pan out exactly as we envision them because God wills or permits circumstances that supersede them. Hence, these readings should encourage us to turn to the Lord in prayer before we attempt to transform our visions and ideas into projects and activities. We will be proceeding wisely since all tasks that are contrary to God’s will or are executed without His consent will eventually come crumbling down.
Concerning our yearning to implement what we envision and to live well, a Scriptural passage from the book of Tobit suggests some timely advice. “Seek counsel from every wise person, and do not think lightly of any useful advice. At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper. For no other nation possesses good counsel, but it is the Lord who gives all good things.” (Tobit 4:18-19) We find in Tobit’s fatherly instruction a guide for the resolutions we set in our lives. Whatever we aspire to do demands discernment to verify that it would be honorable and pleasing to the Lord. Furthermore, we should present it to Him, seek His blessing, and accomplish it with the assistance and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As Catholics, we regularly make resolutions when we examine our conscience and experience the sacrament of confession. Zacchaeus’ resolution models for us a Christian’s determination to glorify the Lord and be a blessing to others. When we have truly encountered the Lord, we are resolved to fulfill what is right and just. A daily examination of conscience teaches Catholics to make the life-changing resolutions of confessing their sins, of doing penance, and of amending their lives for love of the Lord. These acts engender ultimate peace, love, and joy in God’s eternal presence. Certainly, resolutions become not only a new year’s activity but a constant one that is empowered and made feasible through the grace of Christ.
May we learn from Zacchaeus’ example and make true amendments from this moment onward. May Tobit’s counsel also remind us to pray to God for His wisdom and blessing in everything we do. Let us be encouraged by Saint Paul’s words, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) All is possible if we depend not on our own strength but on Christ’s who sustains all men and women that place their trust in Him. For sure, this can be a new beginning for us if we pray, plan, and perform all things through, with, and in Christ Jesus for the glory of God the Father.