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New Beginnings (Words: 516)

by Thomas L. Gallagher

The rhythm of the seasons and the movement of the calendar at this time of the year produce in us renewed vigor towards our goals and our future. We contemplate on what it is our hearts truly desire in the year ahead. So often our focus is on securing a new job or saving money for the kids' tuition, or for a new car or a new home. Perhaps this is the year we will get engaged or married. We think about exercising more, getting our cholesterol down, improving our diet and pursuing some of our free time to a charitable organization. More than at any other time of the year, with the arrival of New Year's Day comes our intense focus on our ambitions.

The word ambition is, however, sometimes referred to in a derogatory manner. Some people think that this term denotes an unseemly self-centeredness or at least some sort of negative characteristic in an individual. Others believe that ambition is the main ingredient in a successful life. And yet, in and of itself, ambition is really neither a positive nor a negative trait. Rather, the real value of ambition is determined by how a person uses it. In its most positive sense, ambition is a gift from God to be exercised in a manner which draws us closer to God as well as those with whom we interact.

So as we begin to formulate (and reformulate) our goals for the coming year, it is important to consider how our goals further our relationship with God and how they draw others closer to God. Do your goals fall in the category of self-centeredness or selfishness? Do we actually see the connection between taking care of our health, for instance, and being more Christ-like? And what about setting spiritual goals? What about simply getting to Mass a little more often? What about spending five to ten minutes a day in prayer? What about going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month? What about simply being less critical of the Catholic Church? Moreover, what about being positive about our Catholic Faith?

What most of us experience towards the end of January is that our commitment to achieving our goals begins to wane. We seem to settle into our usual pattern of behavior. That's okay. As the days and months go by, we will experience set backs, challenges and sometimes, we simply have to carry a heavy cross. But life is hard. Christ himself experienced pain and suffering. But we know also, and most importantly, that joy will overcome sorrow. We know that with God all things are possible. We know that if our goals enable us and others to grow closer in the knowledge and love of Christ, that we will indeed achieve our goals. It is precisely with this understanding that we should approach our ambitions each day with hope, cheerfulness and courage. Happy New Year!

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