THE highway of life is littered with abandoned lists containing good New Year’s resolutions.
Being a tradition, making a New Year’s resolution is the thing to do even if we know we can’t go beyond the first item on our list.
Filling up a piece of paper with our intentions to be better at everything we do is an exciting process. It means that we hope we can shed off our “bad skin” by writing down every antidote to laziness, negligence, doubt, envy, hatred, impatience and so on. It is a wholesale prescription for an ailing character, a wicked mind, and an unfeeling heart.
There is nothing wrong about making “personality” resolutions every year: We want to lose weight, to read more books, to communicate better with our loved ones, and to dress with style.
When we fail in achieving our good intentions, at least we can honestly say that we gave change a fair try, but we add the excise: We failed because people around us did not cooperate.
In fact, that is an item in our New Year’s resolutions: Never to blame our failures on anyone else but me, and myself.
This year, I propose a different kind of resolution, one that springs from inside. Majority of our "things to change" are for the benefit of the body. There is little or none at all for the spirit.
Our theology class taught us that man is composed of three parts: the spirit, soul and body. It is the spirit that communicates with God, and yet we give little attention to this aspect in our personality.
Life is fleeting. We don't have tomorrow, but only this minute and we don't even know what will happen in the next hour. So it is good to prepare ourselves to be in the right path.
A quick look at the letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (in the fifth chapter of the first book, from verses 15 to 24) teaches us that we can improve our spiritual life by following what this great saint told the early church. There are only eight items in our spiritual New Year’s resolutions.
1. Repay evil with good. This means that our action will not depend on how good others are to us. St. Paul tells us to think of doing something good in return. This is difficult to do, but we have 365 days to follow this prescrioption.
2. Be happy in all circumstances. By maintaining our joy, we show other people the glory of God. Of course, no one expects us to laugh when we have no food to eat or our shoulder is aching.
As our shoulder throbs with pain, we can praise God that we can still use our hands. In doing so, we can add a little prayer for those who have lost everything. This is what St. Paul wants us to do.
3. Pray at all times. Praying is like breathing. We do it in spurts throughout the day. We can also have a prayer schedule.
4. Be thankful always. Thankfulness is like a muscle that we exercise. The more we thank, the more we become aware of the effort that other people do to contribute to our welfare. It is telling God our appreciation and understanding of his greatness.
This inward attitude of ours becomes an outward expression in our daily dealings. Giving thanks will make us more aware of God's presence in our life and make us humble in our ways.
5. Don’t quench the urging of the Holy Spirit. Let us allow the Spirit to influence our life every day. If we sense an urging to forgive someone, we obey it because that is the Spirit working in us. Making up with someone is a good start for the new year.
6. Don’t shun the message of your spiritual leaders. They are God’s appointed and have the wisdom to lead us in the right path.
7. Try every good thing that you have not done before, St. Paul says. Think of what is good and lovely, and let's do it today.
8. Avoid all appearances of evil. If we sense something is wrong, then it is best to avoid it. Our conscience will whisper to us to flee the scene.
Nothing will work if we don't call on God. This is also a good prescription for this year.