So… we survived 2016 (at least those of you reading this did) and now we’re onto 2017. “New Year, new me”, right? Ugh. Spare me.
If you’re anything like me you’ve been asked at least 20 times already what your “New Year’s Resolution” is. Lose weight? Save money? Date more? Whatever.
I struggle to answer that question because I have a hard time believing changing a number, 2016 becoming 2017, will amount to any sort of substantial change in my life. I’m not poo-pooing resolutions per say, I’m just saying that for me to believe that changing the last digit on the date will result in a drastic change seems pretty crazy. And let’s not even get started on the fact that the concept of when a “new year” begins is arbitrary at best. But I digress…
Before you label me a “New Year’s Grinch” (is that even a thing?) let’s try to look at this logically. I’m not alone in thinking New Year’s Resolutions are crazy. Alcoholic Anonymous’ definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When you think about most of us and our history of failed New Year’s Resolutions, (apart from those super disciplined, type-A, overachieving people) its insanity to think that 2017 will be any different.
Think of your New Year’s Resolutions from previous years. Did you lose that weight? You lost maybe 2 lbs. that first month, and gained 10 more after. Did you save money? You did, until you decided to spend it all on that trip. Did you date more? You activated you’re Match.com account and found no one you liked enough for a second date.
So why on earth would you look at the Resolutions you failed year after year and think that THIS year will be different? Its insanity, pure and simple.
And yet, It’s the same insanity what the Catholic Church asks us to believe in every time we go to Mass and every time we hit the confessional. We’re asked to participate in these rituals over and over again and somehow come out personally transformed.
It’s time to admit it: What the Catholic Church is asking of us, her children, is insane.
Want to overcome your personal defects to be a better person to the people you love? Go to Mass. I’m sure Father O’ Flannigan’s 15 minute exegesis on the Biblical origins of a Bishop’s crozier (that big stick he carries) is just the thing you need to tackle that problem. Struggling to overcome that crippling sin of lust that leads you to bad decisions on the weekend? Go to Confession. I’m sure Father Martinez silently hearing your failures and offering no advice, before mumbling a prayer to forgive your sins will turn your life right around. Its insanity!
But… while it may be insane it’s not impossible.
The big different between the insanity of a New Year’s Resolution and the insanity of what the Church says comes down to the issue of where your hope is anchored. A New Year’s Resolution is anchored on the hope of a new number: 2017. The Sacraments the Church offers us are anchored on the hope of grace.
Grace is the big game changer that makes the insane possible. It’s God’s own help, his very lifeblood, which he gives to us so we can have a fighting chance. As Catholics, this amazing grace (see what I did there?) is offered to us in a unique way in the Sacraments of Mass and Confession. And guess what? Believe it or not, if we get out of our own way enough, this grace of the Sacraments can transform and change our lives. It’s just a matter of where we look for the grace within the Sacrament.
If you go to Mass seeking to be transformed by Father O’ Flannigan’s long boring homily, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But, if at Mass you seek the grace of the Eucharist and during Communion earnestly ask Jesus for the strength to overcome your defects, that’s where the grace comes in.
If you go to Confession hoping to have your life turned around by Father Martinez’s wise words of counsel which never came, you’re probably going to come out of the box feeling a little shortchanged. But, if you recognize that the prayer of Absolution that Father said has transformed the very reality of your soul and given you a true fresh start, that’s where the grace can begin to change you.
In the end God’s grace available to us in the Sacraments trumps the seemingly insane or impossible nature of anything. Which is why we, as Catholics, start of the New Year with Mass in celebration of the Mother of God, who is also a crazy conduit of graces.
So next time you hear about “those crazy Catholic” know that whoever said isn’t totally wrong, because as Catholics kind of have to be crazy! Yes the Church asks the insane, but She also gives us the insane: the very life of God in these Sacraments that our available to us anytime (or at least Saturday from 3:00pm to 3:30pm).
As for me, despite all my grumblings, I do have a New Year’s Resolution. However, my resolution isn’t attached to the turning of the page of a calendar. I’m anchoring my hope on the insanity of God’s grace and resolving to go to Mass more often during the week.
And lose weight… That too.