Merry Christmas 2022 and Happy New Year 2023. We have officially entered into New Year’s resolution time. I like that people, religious and not, take time to reflect on what they could improve about their lives in the year ahead. I like the following resolutions: to be healthier, to declutter, to spend more time with family, and to moderate and balance our schedules. But do we really need a lot of resolutions, or is there just one that is really necessary?
A Mary in a Martha World
I think most of us think of the New Year as a new opportunity to achieve new things, to accomplish new tasks and progress in our goals. Like Martha, we get busy — some of us get very, very busy — and there is hardly any time for anything but our busyness. In the grand scheme of our lives, one thing is crucial: we must choose this year, perhaps for the first time, to make Christ the center of our lives. In a world of Marthas — full of people trying to achieve and conquer and acquire — perhaps it is time to be like Mary and focus on the one important thing.
A New Infant in Our Lives
Most of us have had the experience of having a new infant join the family. There is so much anticipation and excitement about the new addition to our family circle. We buy gifts and prepare room, and then the reality far exceeds even our loftiest expectations. A new infant transforms a woman into a mother and a man into a father; there are also new uncles and aunts, grandparents and godparents. A new infant transforms our relationships and our goals. Well, this past Christmas we each were given the opportunity, given the invitation, to receive the infant Jesus into our lives. This infant Christ also needs room prepared for him, he also deserves gifts and he also transforms all our relationships for the better.
How we receive this new infant will define our 2023. Do we remove unnecessary clutter from our lives and hearts to make room for him? Do we put our interests and vices to one side in order to care for him? Do we allow his needs to become our needs? Do we allow our service to him be an extension of our love for him instead of simply our parental duty? Do we embrace him and allow his innocence and humility to touch our hearts? Will we allow our hardened hearts to be softened by the warm rays of his tender love?
A Heart with a New Center
The culmination of our Christmas time is not just to receive the Christ child into our nativity scenes but into our lives and hearts. Now we are in Ordinary Time, but our new reality is anything but ordinary. If we accepted the invitation of Christmas, we now have a new center, and a new center to our new year. The goal of his coming into the world was to save, heal and restore what had been lost, and he wants to do the same for us. He knows your darkest times, he knows your deepest hurts, he knows your grandest dreams and your fondest wishes. He wants to become the new center of your heart so that from there he can save and heal and restore you.
It Will Take Effort
It is not too late to accept the invitation made in Christmas and to worship the newborn king like we were just reminded in the Epiphany. Now is precisely the time to name him not just a king but our king. We need to ask ourselves new questions this new year. What would please my king? What would my king want me to help him with? What other vassals has my king asked me to work with? What tools has my king given me to do his work? What resources do I have? What talents have I received? How can I employ my time in service of my king? How can I get to know my king better in order to better serve him? Can I learn to love what my king loves?
A Hand to the Plow
Once we have answered some of these questions, we need to put our hand on the plow. Serving God can take many forms, but they will all require that we do something. The main thing will always be to stay close to him, in prayer, in the recollection of our scattered focus — and serve him from the smallest action to the biggest project. The small actions being the most important and most fundamental, such as how we treat the people we see every day. These are the litmus test that our hearts are changing, that we treat those closest to us as Jesus would treat them, as we should treat Christ in them. From there, he can guide our plow to work whatever pastures he wants.
One of the benefits of our Church festivities is that we are encouraged to start anew. Perhaps our darkness was pierced by a little light, perhaps despair saw a ray of hope. That small flicker of hope is what our souls needed to pluck up our courage and begin anew. Do not quit. This year is certainly the year of our Lord, it is a blessed year, and surely, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” (Psalm 118:24) From all eternity, the Lord has chosen you; choose him anew this year.
Look to Our Lady
Our Lady gives us the model to follow Christ and make him the center of our lives this new year. She received the gift offered, suffered the necessary sufferings of caring for him and helping him with his mission. She also “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19) and in the end, served his mission into her last days. She also received her eternal reward for her faithful, loving and dedicated service to her son. The Blessed Virgin Mary can help us every step of the way. She knows our human condition, and she has a tender love for each of us, her children, won at the price of the sacrifice of her only son and at the price of her own pierced heart. She loves us and loves to help us; let us turn to her this new year and say in the words of The Memorare:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.