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New Life Resolutions

by Peter J. Lynch

The New Year is like a new beginning, starting over, a new life. So, we resolve ourselves to live a better life. We hope to change our old ways and strive to be more fulfilled. The old year passes away with all its joys and sorrows, its victories and defeats. The New Year is electrified with the promise of being better than before. As it comes upon us the old year is forgotten, and the New Year is deeply desired as we stand at the edge ready to dive into the unknown. But there is something that is even better than the whole ritual of the New Year Resolutions, that is the New Life Resolutions.

We don't have to wait until each new year to make up for our failed resolutions of the previous year. Rather, we have a great gift of love from the Lord Jesus, which we may approach and receive throughout the year. This gift gives us what we cannot receive from the ritual of New Year Resolutions: forgiveness for what we have failed to do and empowerment by grace to live the life we vowed to live when we were baptized - the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is that `better life' that we aim to live. And when we don't meet up to that life the "Divine Physician" is always waiting to heal us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of true healing because it is not only a human person that we meet when we go to this sacrament. The priest, who has been configured to Christ by ordination, is the very person of Christ who meets us to forgive us, heal us, and reconcile us to himself and to his body, the Church. Being incorporated into his body by baptism, we carry on the presence and the mission of Christ in the world. As his body, it is not so much a question of how we are to live, but how did he live. When we have not lived according to this resolution, we separate ourselves from the body of Christ. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we turn to Christ to be once again reunited as a part of his body, and thus the whole body is then healed.

The great beauty of this sacrament is that it is available to us all year round. How often should we go to confession? We can answer this ourselves by examining how often we have offended Christ and have needed his mercy. We can make a New Life Resolution as often as we need, as often as we have failed to live the life of Christ. But, each time we approach this sacrament of love and mercy, it is definitely not a time of defeat, rather, it is a time of triumph. It is triumph because in this sacrament, which is empowered by the cross of Christ, our sins are defeated. And in turning to God, in whom we can do all things and without whom we can do nothing, we become victors against all that is contrary to the life of Christ. By frequent Confession, rather than having a year full of failures, we can have a year full of triumphs. And at each time, we resolve ourselves, with the help of God, to do better, to sin no more, and live according t the life we were given in Christ. It is a matter of personal growth in relationship with Christ. I feel the need to go every two weeks in order to maintain my relationship with Christ. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has been said to approach the sacrament every day. The Church encourages us to go every month, but only requires that we go once a year. We remember that, in the Scriptures, St. Peter reminds us that we are to be holy for God is holy. We have a great help in frequent Confession because this sacrament is also a sacrament of conversion. As Christians we are called to constant conversion, a constant turning back to God. In turning to God, we turn away from those things that are contrary to the image and likeness of God in whose image we were made. God is the reason for our being holy and we need to continually die to this world and to our old selves, that we may live the life of holiness that is meant for us.

Our entering into this sacrament of mercy is a re-entering into the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. It is this Paschal Mystery which empowers the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just as in Baptism we die with Christ and rise to new life in him, so in the Sacrament in Reconciliation we enter again into his death that we may be washed clean in his blood and rise from there into newness of life. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God is made present and strengthens and nourishes us. We relive this sacrifice in which we were washed clean and made one body in Christ. Through reconciliation we are able to receive that which we are, and by this Eucharist we are strengthened and nourished.

So, more than the New Year Resolutions, the New Life Resolutions in the Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us a life of forgiveness and empowers us by grace to live the resolve of our baptism - the New Life in Christ. May God continue to draw us deeper into his love, which has reached us in the cross of Christ.

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