New Year's Day Resolutions
At the start of every new year, it is common for people to take new year’s resolutions.
The businessman may resolve to spend more time with his family, the athlete to train more single-mindedly, the teacher to be more demanding and patient of his students. These resolutions may be good, but we should first of all look at basics. Where am I on the great path of life? I was made to know, love and serve God and thus to save my soul, that is my first and greatest duty; how am I doing? Firstly, beware! If you think that you are doing fine (after all, I go to Mass on Sunday) and that you don’t need to examine yourself, that is undoubtedly because you are on the path to hell. It is those who are in the most danger of going to hell who worry the least about it, and it is those who are in the least danger who worry the most. The only reason why people go to hell is because they take little or no care to co-operate with their loving Saviour who died so that they might not go to hell.
Secondly, imagine yourself at death. It will happen, it shouldn’t take too much to imagine. Driving along the 401, huge truck out of control, game over. Gone outside for a breath of air, forgot your keys, -30º C, neighbour’s away, you’re dead. Where will you go? If you are in the state of mortal sin, you will go to hell for all eternity. You know this is not science-fiction. You know that one of these years will be the year of your death.
So, what should be my new year’s resolution? To live as I should like to die. Sounds good but what exactly do you mean. To live as I would like to die means to live in a constant state of friendship with God - in the state of grace. So, I will do the minimum and avoid mortal sin? Not enough. If you desire to do the minimum, you will not manage it because you will just be acting out of fear of hell. You want to sin but you’re just afraid of doing it, but you really do want to sin. Fear of hell is good, but it’s not going to motivate you for a whole year.
You must desire the maximum - you must desire this year to be a saint. To be a saint means to love God with all you have. This is much easier than doing the minimum. Doing the minimum means constantly wondering ‘how far can I go without going to hell?’ and ruefully eyeing the juicy sin while secretly hating the commandments that stop you from sinning. It means being forced against your will. Being a saint means being motivated by love and love is the easiest motive for doing anything. There was once a boy whose parents could never get him to wash himself and comb his hair and cut his nails. They tried everything, but he didn’t want to do it. Then, one day, they saw him come down the stairs. His hair was in place, his face was shining, and his clothes were clean. He had fallen in love. “If a man give all his substance for love, he shall despise it as nothing.” (Cant. 8, 7)
So, this year, do yourself a favour. Stop dragging your feet. Stop clinging onto your Insta-vanity and rock music and pathetic television programmes. Be a saint. Resolve not to commit any deliberate sins and work out how you’re going to do that. Say your Rosary. Go to Confession regularly. Do an act of charity to your neighbour. Volunteer. Do ten minutes of spiritual reading every day. Then, you will not be worrying when you go for a drive.
Father David Sherry