The Epiphany of the Lord
A very Happy New Year to each and to all! I want to welcome to the parish Fr. AJ Gallant, who has generously offered to cover my Masses this weekend. I am away for a short retreat and the baptism of my niece, Bridget Clare. You are near to me in my prayers and I appreciate your prayers for my safe travels.
Many times, we associate a new calendar year with a fresh start. We make resolutions and plans. We dream big! The inception of a year seems to force us to look to the future and become personal life strategists. Many, by January 10, have completely given up and said, “Why bother!?” I didn’t make it to the gym for three days, I keep eating sweets, I bought more soda, I missed my check in with my best friend, or I’ll never be able to work that much to get that promotion. Whatever it may be, we end up laughing at ourselves (if we’re not too disappointed) and saying, “I’ll just carry on as normal.”
This is a great time of year to consider a few ways to build virtue. Virtue, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is a strength/gift that is perfected. So, let’s be eminently practical about our awareness. We should be aware of our immediate/proximate needs, our remote needs, and our future needs. This requires leisure (or a really good secretary!). We cannot hold in our head all of the priorities necessary to manage our life if we are always on the run. Our immediate needs are those things we need today. I have to say my prayers, eat, drink water, complete some specific tasks, and participate in a set number of activities. These are necessary and unavoidable. Secondly, I have to keep in my head the remote needs. This will be the chores around the house, taking the car in for an inspection, calling a friend back to RSVP for a cookout, etc. Our future needs have to do with planning the direction of our life: budget, house, car, moving, career path, etc.
A classmate of mine write a great book called “The Dos and Don’ts of Discernment.” It’s a great work for young people who are trying to determine what God wants for them in their life. In any case, it turns the idea of priorities upside down. We can tend to think, “I’ve got to have all my long-term plans set in order to manage my daily and remote decisions.” That’s not the way the Christian spirit flourishes, though. Instead, we must allow the long-term plans to be shaped by our fidelity to the tasks of the present moment. Have I said my morning offering today? Have I taken care of my own hygiene and nutrition? Have I said “I love you” to my spouse and children? Have I shown up on time to work and put forth the best effort for my employer? From a Christian perspective, we shouldn’t care where we are in 15 years if it’s somewhere away from God’s embrace, fidelity to family life, and a decent person who seeks to love his neighbor and serve him.
So, think about little things you can do as resolutions. Add five minutes of prayer in the middle of the day. Give up a meal one day a week for some intention (end of abortion is a good one!). Change out one entertainment habit and make it more wholesome. Start little, and you’ll find yourself doing exactly where God wants you in the long run.