I don’t want to write about resolutions. That would be the easy thing to write about after the New Year, right? But, I don’t want to write about them. Resolutions are an amazing opportunity for success and change in your life, and there are plenty of other really qualified articles trying to help people achieve that quest. They are also a great opportunity to miss the mark. January 1st, maybe I’m really fired up for that work out routine, but by January 5th I’m pretty tired of it. See, with resolutions you either are on it, or you are not. You either do it, or you don’t. So, I don’t want to talk about them. What I’m more interested in is renewal. See, unlike a resolution, renewal is an opportunity to become. Renewal is an ongoing process, not simply a one time endeavor. As people of faith we are continually called to be renewal. The Church is called to renewal. I do want to write about renewal because it is full of hope, full of change, full of possibilities. Why get stuck in a resolution?
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that resolution you made to eat less sweets is not a good thing. It is a great thing! In our Gospel for January 13th we see John baptizing. John was calling for renewal. John was calling for repentance. The community he lived in was great at resolutions. Fasting and repentance were cornerstones for John’s community, and they invited others to do the same. They were great at making a plan for change because they understood that these spiritual habits lead to greater truths. John was able to see Jesus clearly, and John knew that faith was radical. Radical enough that later in his story, we hear of the martyrdom of John. Those spiritual habits, those resolutions, allowed John the resolve to hold fast to his message, even after being imprisoned by Herod. Habits with intention lead to virtue. So, please, make that resolution and stick to it!
Renewal, impacts the mind and heart. Renewal directs us to something unique, something prized, something special. Where John brings repentance, Jesus brings renewal. Being open to renewal brings fullness of life. Timothy Radcliffe points to this in his book “Take the Plunge”, “If people see that sanctity is the vocation of every Christian, then our faith will be seen not as an oppressive moral code which stops people having fun, but as the invitation to the fullness of life.” How easy it can be as Christians to point to the resolutions of our faith, instead of inviting others to see how our faith has renewed us and how we are continuing to be renewed. It means being vulnerable. Praying the rosary everyday can be a great resolution, but someone who does not understand it might hear this at best as a nice thing to do, or at worst as a waste of time. But if I explain that praying the rosary everyday is an opportunity for renewal because it starts my morning off on the right foot, brings me a clear mind and helps me to stay connected to God and the people I pray for, then maybe even the most cynical can connect with that. If we are open to allowing the Holy Spirit to renew us, then we become open to being renewed as we were in Baptism.
At its core renewal assigns meaning. A sense of meaning brings with it purpose and change. Dr. Terry Hargrave notes, “Behavior and meaning mutually inform and shape one another as people gain meaning from interactions and meaning modifies behavior.” In other words, when I assign meaning to what I do, it takes on a renewed purpose. It is one thing to do a resolution just to do it. It is an entirely different thing to do it because it has meaning. When we do something because it has meaning, we enter into the process of renewal. It is not something that just happens, but it becomes a journey. We hear in the book of Titus, “When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” Renewal takes responding to, and an openness to, being radical. To not simply giving into how things have always been done. But embracing the possibility of newness, and allowing myself to be shaped in a new way.
So, in 2019 what do we do? Do we stick with the normal resolutions that may or may not stick, or do we respond to being renewed in Christ? How can I be open to where the Holy Spirit is offering renewal? How can I respond and give meaning in these moments? If I do, how will life look on December 31, 2019?