If you don’t have God factored into your New Year’s resolutions, then you’ve factored out The Divine Dream and the Divine Person upon Whom everything hinges.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
5 January 2018
If you do a Google search for “New Year’s Resolutions,” you’ll find there are over 66 million results, with suggestions heavily weighted (at least in the upper ranking positions) toward improving your physical health, enjoying greater satisfaction at work, meeting financial goals, building more fulfilling relationships, and having better sex.
One particular post I clicked on, listed high up on Google’s first result’s page, was written by Rheana Murray for the website “Today.” Ms. Murray’s advice for a New Year’s resolution is to focus on a particular word. In 2015, it was the word “calm.”
“This year,” writes Murray, “I rang in 2018 with creativity, making a quiet promise to myself to not let passion projects slide amid work and relationships and family and everything else that begs our attention throughout the year.”
A word to focus on? I was thinking of the Word made flesh or the Word of God.
Lifehack lists 50 suggestions. The first is get in shape. 2nd on the list is eating healthy and eating less. 7th is become “more confident and take some chances.” 8th is earning more money. 15th is “find a significant other.” Not a spouse, not someone to marry, but an intimate partner to share your secrets with. 17th is “have better sex.” It can “help keep us mentally and physically healthy. The idea is to make it a fun and rewarding experience, and this is something that comes with practice and exercise,” writes Ivan Dimitrijevic.
The sacredness of conjugal union in marriage, ordered toward the generation of new human life? Is that in there somewhere? Sorry. It’s not on the list.
I’m not saying all the suggestions are bad, some make sense and are helpful. For example, number 25 is “volunteer and give more to charity.” Certainly a good thing. 27 is about forgiving others. Also a good thing. Forgiveness “is a much healthier way to deal with issues that should be left in the past,” writes Dimitrijevic. True. However, what is the ultimate purpose undergirding the principle of forgiving others? That’s the real question. Do I forgive only to make myself feel better? That outlook misses the greater point.
I didn’t read all 50 suggestions. But there was no mention of Jesus or Christianity or God or religion or faith. There was one mention of virtue. It was “punctuality.” Well. . . . Anyway, you get the point.
New Year’s resolutions can be a good thing. Many people emphasize focusing on reachable, concrete goals rather than on unachievable dreams. That makes sense. There’s no point in setting impossible goals unless you have a penchant for failure.
Your Life’s Dream
But what about dreams? Maybe one particular dream is the perfect New Year’s resolution. Maybe part of the problem for most Americans is that they’re not dreaming big enough! Their eyes are focused on things here below, looking downward, rather than on things above, gazing heavenward.
What’s the dream of your life? What does your heart crave above all else?
If you’re honest with yourself, answers like wealth, physical health, more friends, recognition, a promotion at work, sex, or greater satisfaction all ring hollow. These are all finite things. Some of them are created things. Others are material things. They’re all things found in the world. Things that are temporary, fleeting. It’s not that they’re bad per se. It’s that they’re not infinitely perfect. And the infinitely perfect is what every single human person craves.
Why? Because the human person is made for one ultimate purpose: eternal communion with the Tripersonal God, who is himself absolute and perfect love, truth, beauty, and goodness. God is the Life Itself to whom our life gravitates. There’s no getting away from that fact. We’re all hardwired for more than just contact with the divine; we’re intentionally created by Divine Wisdom to share God’s own divine life!
My point is this: what’s the one Dream you must attain in order to achieve your destiny, in order to find perfect, lasting happiness? It’s not a dream about having some-thing. Not if you’re sane, anyway. It’s The Dream of having Someone: Jesus Christ.
It’s The Divine Dream of possessing God. As St. Teresa of Avila noted, he who possesses God, possesses everything. God alone suffices.
Is this an impossible dream? Absolutely not. It’s the dream God has divinely implanted in your heart. You were born with it. It’s a supernaturally infused seed, inserted into the interior depths of your being, and there’s no uprooting it, pulling it or discarding it. It will continue to reside permanently in the fabric of your being all throughout this present life. In embracing and focusing on this dream, you’ll find that God is on your side. With that in mind, if you give yourself over to God, this dream is more than merely likely or potentially achievable—it’s certain. It’s the God-planned reality for your future.
Unending happiness, spending eternity with Christ and the other members of his body, living forever with those you love and with those who love, the resurrection unto life and the reception of a glorified, impassible body—all these sublime wonders and more are on the horizon for those who love God, die to the things of this world, and give themselves over to Christ.
What should our New Year’s resolutions be about? If we’re thinking clearly, they must be primarily about fostering spiritual health. They should be about living for The Divine Dream which is itself about living in and through and with Christ. They should be all about belonging totally to the One who created me and in whose image I am made: Jesus Christ.
5 Suggestions for Attaining The Divine Dream
Is The Divine Dream on your horizon for this new year? Here are 5 practical suggestions for helping you to attain it:
1. Set aside time for daily prayer, reading of the gospels (such as the gospel for the Mass of the day) and meditating on the life of Christ. Try starting with 15 minutes. Many people find it helpful to meditate on the life of Christ while looking at an image of him.
2. Attend the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (also known as Confession and Forgiveness). Then, put all your grace-filled efforts into putting away all mortal sin. If you fall, receive Confession again and, once again, attack mortal sin with forceful determination. Attaining your destiny of eternal communion with God rests on dying with sanctifying grace. Mortal sin destroys this saving grace. For the love of God, do not let yourself die with the guilt of unrepentant mortal sin on your soul.
3. Participate in the Sunday Eucharist worthily every Sunday and other days of obligation. If you’ve fallen into mortal sin, do not receive the Eucharist until first making a good Confession. However, be sure to attend Holy Mass on Sundays! The Christ-given command is to attend Mass every Sunday; there’s no command that you must receive the Eucharist every Sunday.
4. Engage in some type of voluntary penance each day. Start small. If you like butter on your toast, go without it; forgo watching your favorite show and pray instead or spend some time doing something productive. Instead of perusing the news of the day, read a spiritual book on one of the saints or read sacred scripture. Turn on the cold water in the shower. Walk barefoot outside in the snow to get your mail. Fast for the morning. I’m sure you have other ideas. The point is, Christ voluntarily suffered for your sins and the sins of others. Participate in his life. Live as he lived.
This New Year, replace secular resolutions—many of which offer little more than dead-end prospects—with spiritual solutions ordered toward possessing True and Perfect Love. Instead of looking to oneself and employing a secular humanist view of self-improvement so often found in the typical New Year’s resolutions, look beyond oneself to self-sacrifice, engage in the charitable love of neighbor, and practice self-entrustment to Christ.
The bottom line is this: if you don’t have God factored into your New Year’s resolutions, then you’ve not only failed to prioritize correctly, but you’ve factored out The Divine Dream and the Divine Person upon Whom everything hinges.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.