By now, even though it is still early in the New Year, for most of us that resolutions list is somewhere at the bottom of the waste basket or on a coffee-stained, forgotten piece of paper ... buried under some pile on our desk.
According to the latest research on New Year’s resolutions, 45 percent of Americans make that list of goals and or practices we hope to accomplish and incorporate into our lives as we begin another calendar year.
Unfortunately only about 8 percent of those who make annual resolutions are successful at keeping them.
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Not because I was afraid so much of not being able to live up to that long list in front of me, but because I realized that I never really bothered to consult God when it came to coming up with what I thought needed to be changed or improved in my life. There was very little, if any, spiritual discernment involved in coming up with those items. And besides, whether it’s personal or spiritual growth, it shouldn’t be about crossing off items on a list but a continual effort to learn more about God and do what we can to make a difference.
Maybe that’s why I keep going back to two of Pope Francis’ January homilies. In his homily for the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, he told us we need to be like the Magi of the East and have a “holy cunning.”
“Our life is a journey, illuminated by the lights which brighten our way, to find the fullness of truth and of love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the Light of the World.”A unique aspect of this light that “guides us in the journey of faith is holy ‘cunning,’” which is “that spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and to avoid it.”
The pope explained that the Magi used the “holy cunning” when, on their way back from Bethlehem, they decided not to pass by Herod’s place but to choose a different path.
“The wise men teach us how not to fall into the snares of darkness and how to defend ourselves from the shadows which seek to envelop our life. We need to welcome the light of God into our hearts and, at the same time, to cultivate that spiritual cunning which is able to combine simplicity with astuteness.”
The next morning he followed that beautiful homily with more wonderful food for thought based on the day’s first reading from 1 John 4:1-6, where St. John tells us to test everything. While the Holy Father didn’t mention resolutions or lists per say, he did make it very clear that it is so easy to get caught up in our immediate desires and temptations — or in the flavor of the day.
He referred to the heart as a marketplace of feelings and emotions that can easily lead us astray. The verses, as the pope reminded those gathered at the Santa Casa Marta for the daily Mass, are a “counsel for life.”
“We need to test things. This is from the Lord and this is not, in order to remain in the Lord.”
And that might be one of the reasons why many would rather go the resolution route. It is easier, if you make up your own list, to toss it aside, shrug your shoulders and say better luck next time. It’s a lot harder to develop a “holy cunning” or to “test everything” and remain in the Lord.
In my case, it is not a matter of patting myself on the back and thinking that I am some great Catholic Olympian. Actually it’s because I know I need all the help I can get.
So I am better off being in this for the long haul because it is going to take me probably longer than most to get where God needs me to be.
Happy New Year!
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.