As the New Year unfolds there are countless thoughts that fill our hearts and minds.
We think of our health, our work, our family, our friends. We examine our relationships and take in the past and the future in one deep, exhilarating breath. Most of us use this time to get our bearings: where we’ve been, where we’re headed.
Maybe we have made great strides in our efforts to be “better” in the previous year and we want to continue improving ourselves. Or maybe we made no improvements at all and this is the year that we will make headway. For most of us, however, we find ourselves somewhere in between: we are getting better at virtuous living but still have a long way to go.
January, then, becomes that time when we assess the past and in some way “plan” the future. We set goals and consider ways to achieve those goals. We want to live more purposefully. We have thoughts about eating and exercise and patience and kindness and charity.
This, we tell ourselves, will be a banner year.
Of all the things we contemplate, we will soon find that some are more difficult than others but in the beginning, all our goals are important.
One of the most important goals we can have as we look the New Year square in the eye is to strengthen our personal relationship with Christ.
“Personal relationship with Christ” happens to be one of my favorite sayings. I see it as the passion of our everyday living. January is a perfect time to develop, strengthen and deepen our friendship with our Savior. It is a time to look at our daily living and set goals that reflect our interest in Him and our desire to deepen our knowledge of Him.
- First and foremost, one should actively participate (a proper interior disposition and attention) in the Holy Mass and worthily receive Holy Communion. The Second Vatican Council Church reminded us that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our faith. It is God’s way of bringing us into communion with Him.
- Adoration is time spent before the Blessed Sacrament that allows us to center our hearts and minds on Christ. For many people, finding time to spend in Adoration seems almost impossible. For me, there was a time where health issues precluded me being able to do this; but the years have changed that and I now am able to go to a local Church and simply be in Christ’s presence. One of the gifts of the Internet is that people who may be homebound can still spend time in Adoration by visiting such sites as http://www.savior.org/. Time spent with Christ is a crucial step in your relationship with Him. You can spend all the time you want online reading and chatting on Catholic sites and yet if you do not have quality, quiet time with Christ, you really are not developing a relationship with Him. Adoration is one of the best ways to spend time with Jesus.
- Another way that you develop your relationship with Christ is to read Scripture. There are countless ways to do this. Sites like USCCB connect you to daily readings while print magazines such as Magnificat give you hands on access to daily Bible readings. People are often amazed at how a Bible passage “speaks” to them, but they shouldn’t be surprised! This is what it is intended to do and why it is imperative that daily Scripture is part of your life and will lead you into a deeper, more personal relationship with Jesus.
- Confession is not for wimps and getting to confession should be a top priority in the New Year. Confession is a Sacrament that really forces you to take an honest look at yourself and your daily living—all of which are real markers of your relationship with Christ. If you are a Catholic whose confessional life is almost non-existent, you will find that the best way to get your year and your life with Jesus off to a great start is to visit the confessional. Clean that slate! Begin anew.
- Health, wellness and exercise are always at the top of everyone’s “New Year’s Resolution” list but are also the first things to go by the wayside. Following a Catholic health and wellness program such as Peggy Bowes’ The Rosary Workout or Kevin Vost’s Fit for Eternal Life will bring Jesus to the center of what you do and will strengthen you physically while also strengthening you spiritually. Seeing yourself as a temple to the Holy Spirit is a powerful way to know Christ.
- Have fun this year! Sometimes we get the wrong impression about being Catholic. While we bear our crosses—and should welcome them as part of our journey with Christ—we cannot forget that we have a wide range of senses that allow for our enjoyment and elation. When we balance everything with Jesus at the center, we will see that laughter and good cheer go a long way in helping us live virtuously. Having good friends and family members who are also like-minded, makes a real difference. Surround yourself with people who bring Christ to you and remind you that living is a gift to be relished and enjoyed.
Happy New Year!