Catholic theology says little about “New Year’s resolutions.” Few saints ascribe to the idea. A paucity of evidence of this practice surfaces in papal encyclicals or conciliar decrees. Yet the term is ubiquitous. It may even appear in a homily or two every January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The chief problem associated with strict resolutions lies in their unbalanced focus on the ego.
There’s nothing wrong with implementing helpful activities to foster moral growth and avoid sinful habits. In fact, a person should develop these kinds of necessary plans. But focusing too much on what we do by ourselves risks obfuscating the secondary role of human action in a person’s growth in holiness for the supremacy of grace.
On January 1, the Church instructs her children to look to the Mother of God who, upon hearing the message of the Angel Gabriel, responds in the passive — not the active — tense: “Let it be done to me according to Thy Word” (Lk 1:38). God works in Mary first. Her response is one of humble obedience to the divine will. In 2022, instead of obsessing over what we can or cannot resolve to do to “better” our livelihood — whether material or spiritual — we first ought to shift the focus from “I” to “Thou,” to borrow the words of Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. The Church doesn’t adopt most secular practices, like New Year’s resolutions, with good reason. Her divinely-inspired traditions supersede them. This year, find the opportunity to listen to God’s initiative first, and then resolve to respond like Mary.
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