Let me first wish everyone a very happy new year, as we continue through the twelve days of the Christmas Season. Today we celebrate 8 maids a milking, 7 swans a swimming, 6 geese a laying, 5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. We also celebrate that Mary is indeed the Mother of God! In Greek, the Theotokos, the God bearer (see CCC 495). Mary gave birth to God, and we must celebrate.
Mary is the Mother of God because the eternal Son of God emptied himself of all his glory and freely subject-ed himself to the entire spectrum of human existence–from birth to death. St. Athanasius said, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” And God called on Mary to do it. In 431 AD at Ephesus, the Church declared that Mary could indeed be called Mother of God, because she gave birth to Jesus, the eternal Son of God. No wonder Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (MT 19:36)
With God, all things are possible–which brings us to our New Year, and what is possible in 2021. First off, ALL THINGS are possible with God. Mary knew it, Jesus taught it, and the real question is whether we believe it. For many people, 2020 was one, big dumpster fire. Last night me, Jill, and the boys reflected on all the wonderful blessings this past year brought to us, and the wonderful things God had done in our life–even amid the difficulty and the struggles of a pandemic and worse, the world in pandemonium! God blesses even in the darkness, the New Year invites us to consider our response to that blessing.
Which brings us to New Year’s Resolutions. I have heard that many are choosing NOT to have resolutions, as their first resolution. As Christians, we are too well-aware that there is always room for improvement. And that’s what resolutions are about. God has great things in store for us, and unlike Mary, many of us need to get into shape to embrace the challenge! I’m honestly a bit put-off by people who say they don’t do resolutions. I say, “Let me rephrase what you just said, ‘You have given up on trying to be better tomorrow that you are today. You have given up on being better next year that you were last year. You have given up on growing in virtue, holiness, and quality of your character.”
My brothers and sisters, we are NOT among those who give up and quit. We are among those who pursue life, and holiness, and goodness, and truth, in our world, in our country, in our family, in ourselves. St. Thomas Aquinas (qtd. In the CCC 460) said, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” We can admit we are not there yet. But don’t give up. Be resolute. Resolve to make small changes each year to be more the person God calls you to be. Make resolutions.
If I may offer some practical suggestions: The first, is that in all of these suggestions we take baby steps. No one goes from the couch to winning a marathon. So here are some thoughts from Deacon Stephen:
- We are mind-body-soul unities; make resolutions that improve your mind, body, and soul. Exercise daily, pray daily, and read daily.
- We are communal; make communal resolutions. Resolutions that improve me, improve our marriage, and that improve our family. And come up with resolutions as a family.
- Write them down. Post them on your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, on your nightstand.
Finally, never give up. Resolutions are not one-and-done. We resolve for the whole year. Recommitting again and again over the course of the year. Just because you failed, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. I want to encourage you stick with it. By February most people you know will have given up on their resolutions, if they ever started at all–let’s not give up on ours. As my mom was fond of saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Mary gave birth to God and God became one of us. God carried his cross for us. We need to carry our cross for Him. So that we can be like Him. As St. Athanasius said, “The Son of God became man so that we might become God.” May 2021 be an incredible growth year for you, your marriage, and your family. With God, all things are possible.