As we round out 2021 and head off to 2022, we will tend to make many resolutions. This is a very good thing since our weaknesses often cause us to slacken off from the many positive things we start out with.
This process of readjusting ourselves and moving forward on our many life goals should not make us feel discouraged. If it does, then we need to look at where the vice of pride is hiding. Even Jesus on the way to Calvary fell many times, but (and this is key) he always got up and kept trying until He reached the mount.
Discouragement is always the language of the devil. Thus, we should keep making those changes that we plan and, even if we go back a bit, its always two steps forward, one step back.
Sometimes it is God Himself who gives us a boost. When I was learning to ski (one of many sports that I did not conquer!) I spent the whole day going up and down the beginner’s slope. I must have fallen hundreds of times, having black and blue marks all over. After the long day was over, I headed to the ski lodge which was about 50 yards away. I was glad that it was on level ground as I ski-walked toward the haven that beckoned. At this point I hit a patch of ice and once again I was down on the ground. I felt so tired that I did not have the strength to get up. Suddenly from behind, two strong arms went under my armpits and I was back on my feet. When I looked behind me, there was no one there! God? Perhaps. His Presence? Absolutely. God is amazing! He knows just when to intervene. It could have been just a compassionate fellow skier. But sometimes God takes that form as well! And so many other forms!
Thus, this move forward that seeks to better itself, especially as the new year approaches, can be a prayer to God that calls Him into one’s life to assist us in making further progress in our daily life. We seek at these times not just something good for our lives but progress in virtue. Progress in virtue is not too much different than progress in physical strength. It requires daily effort at strengthening which over the long haul will make the body stronger and more resilient. For instance, a resolution to quit smoking requires one to do a number of things: throw away the cigarettes, get a patch, consult a doctor, monitor one’s progress. This is accomplished by small measurable steps which lead up to a virtuous triumph that will benefit one’s whole existence.
Another example is that of the process of retirement. When one retires from one’s career, it is very important that one retire to something and not from something. One needs to have a plan of how one hopes to use time once one does not have to spend 40 or so hours producing a paycheck. And even more, one must find other ways of enjoying the sense of satisfaction that one gets from a job well done.
Even though our past is littered with the remnants of past resolutions that have, over time, not been realized, it is imperative that we keep making them since our desire to do good is in itself pleasing to God even if our execution of these desires falls short of realization. We must, therefore, never surrender our hope, for it is our hope that helps us to get up once again when we have fallen; and it is hope that makes us keep wanting to do the will of God in our lives.
Not for nothing that in Dante’s Divine Comedy, when Dante and Virgil reach the gates of hell, they find emblazoned overhead the words “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here!” This chilling reminder of the importance of hope was further used by the French author Georges Bernanos (one of my favorites) when the priest in Diary of a Country Priest says of those in hell that they would warm themselves by the embers that we call despair!
Hope is often the forgotten virtue, but it is the link between Faith and Charity. No matter what happens to us, God is greater still. Even in our making of resolutions we must never forget that.
As we approach the beginning of a new year, let us not be afraid to strive for higher things through the virtue of hope. Let not the devil’s plan of discouragement cause us to veer off course. Let our every resolution be made in Christ, not merely for self-centered improvements, but to better serve our Divine Majesty.
“Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” – Romans 5:5, 12:12