As we turn the calendar to a new year, the momentum of resolutions fills the air. People post reflection questions and set intentions. Others choose a word or a theme for the next 12 months. By this time, you’ve either successfully begun to implement your resolutions, failed, or, most likely, experienced some combination of the two.
While I appreciate the momentum of making New Year’s resolutions, after January has passed, I am ready to be reminded of how resolutions fit in with Christian living. It is good to live with intention, but if your enthusiasm has waned or you feel like a failure, take heart in the way resolutions fit into our Catholic lives.
The Church teaches us that sainthood is not just the plan for a select few but the goal for each one of us. To become a saint, we must be resolved internally in the pursuit of sainthood. Our resolutions each year should be at the service of this pursuit. There will always be trends when it comes to the secular setting of resolutions, but by anchoring our goals to sainthood, we unite them with God’s grace working in our lives.
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In one of his speeches for World Youth Day, St. John Paul II said, “It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
Making resolutions with sainthood in mind challenges us to grow in what God is calling us to. It roots us in his plan for our lives. This gives our resolutions more depth than simply checking boxes or creating new routines.
The beauty of dependence
In a time where independence and self-agency are viewed as top “virtues,” it is good to remember that as humans we exist as creatures. We depend on God as our creator and our savior not only when we are praying or thinking theologically, but in our daily existence, in each moment. In making resolutions, we turn our focus toward what is within our power to control, yet as Christians we are called to open our wills to God’s grace as we move through our days.
We exist in God’s creation, and we depend on God and his creation to live. While sometimes it might feel like we should be able to “do it all,” humility invites us to recognize our dependence on God, others and the earth as a beautiful thing. Placing our resolutions in the realm of dependence on God takes the pressure off of us and allows us to view our choices as both privileges and responsibilities to carry out with his help.
The more we lean into our dependence on God for our very existence, the less we lean on ourselves in our resolutions and instead respond to God’s grace that he is giving us in the moment.
Leaning into the present moment
Resolutions invite us to look ahead to the future. They help us think about how to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be. Once we’ve realized that becoming the best version of ourselves means pursuing sainthood, we must remember that grace is offered to us in the present moment. It is only in the present moment that we can build, foster and experience a relationship with God. It is in the present moment that we take up our crosses and follow Christ, uniting our wills to God’s will and accepting his grace.
God has a plan for each of us, and as our lives unfold day by day, it is our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit’s movement that will allow us to see it. If we become too tangled in our resolutions, we begin to focus on ourselves instead of what God is doing in us.
Regardless of your feelings on making resolutions (or not), as Christians, we are invited to regularly reflect, resolve and make adjustments to our daily living in search of sainthood. Each of us is called to be resolved in our Christian living, set on embracing a life of virtue united with Christ and today is the perfect time to begin again.