But let’s look at some anyway, just for fun (and maybe, for action).
1. I will talk less. (“Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well” (Prv 10:19). Let’s face it, most of us like to talk; we get asked to do it often and we oblige readily. For those of us who also teach regularly in a school setting, it’s an even greater temptation. Every once in a while, I will shut up.
2. I will listen more. Psalm 34 reminds us that the Lord hears and sees the cries of the poor, however “poor” is described: poor in mind, body, spirit. If the Lord hears and acts on behalf of the poor, how can I do a better of job of that in my own ministry this year?
3. I will forgive more. No comment necessary.
4. I will confess more. How faithful have we been to seeking reconciliation, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation itself? If we offer reconciliation to others, how often do we seek our own reconciliation with God and others?
5. I will use the power I have for the good of others. The late, great canonist, Father Jim Provost, included this in his own advice for canon lawyers. It seems appropriate for all of us who exercise ministry in the name of the Church. We may not associate our ministry with “power” (understood negatively), but if we remember that power, used correctly, is what enables us to act on behalf of others, then we can view and exercise it properly. We are ordained to act on behalf of the People of God, not for our own personal ends.
6. I will avoid hurtful speech. Consider Proverbs 12:18: “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” How often when we gather do we slip into sarcasm? How often do our “jokes” carry a pointed jab at another?
7. I will love with action even more than with words. To love is a verb more than a noun. I will try to love more and not simply talk about it. One auxiliary bishop years ago would simply go alone to a prison outside of town as a volunteer on Sundays. He never went as “the Bishop,” but simply as “Father John”; I doubt if any of the inmates ever new he was a bishop. How could I simply go, as an “anonymous Christian” to serve others?
8. I will remember the ancient adage of leadership: to praise in public and censure in private. My staff would appreciate it, I’m sure!
9. I will learn from the Good Samaritan: to be “moved with compassion.” Do the needs of others still move us, or do we simply act superficially?
10. I will learn from the Good Samaritan: to offer practical assistance. How can I provide more direct, practical assistance in binding up the wounds of others?
11. I will learn from the Good Samaritan: to return to the inn. He followed through to make sure the victim was being treated properly; how can we do the same?
12. I recommit myself to the enthusiastic proclamation of the Good News to all. Paul VI used to speak of the need for evangelists to be people of joy and enthusiasm; the U.S. bishops said the same thing in their own document and national plan on evangelization. Am I a joy-filled evangelist? Do I still believe what I proclaim, teach what I believe, and practice what I teach?
Happy New Year to all!