The Christian life is not complicated. These New Year’s Resolutions might seem too obvious, but they are the most important.
Your old pal 2013 is almost gone (good riddance!); bring on 2014! We are mere hours from a new year: a chance for a fresh start, when you can turn over a new leaf, put on a new coat of paint, brew a new pot of coffee, upgrade to a new phone. If 2013 had problems, take heart: you have overcome 2013 (or at least survived it). Next year is going to be better!
But hold on there, turbo. Things don’t just get better on their own. No, no, you need to be intentional. You need to be organized. You need a good old fashioned New Year’s Resolution.
Now, you could try that new diet fad, or renew that gym membership you never used in 2013. But that’s so 2013. You need something more appropriate for 2014 – you need something radical.
And I just so happen to know of six New Year’s Resolutions that are so powerful, so revolutionary, that if you successfully implemented just one of them, you’d change your life. Implement all six, and your friends won’t recognize you anymore.
So put on your seatbelt, set down your phone, drive to where you’re going, park the car, and then pick your phone back up (don’t look at your phone while you’re driving!): here they are, in the order that I wrote them:
1) Pray: The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing.” Are you doing that, yet? If not, you have room for improvement.
With prayer, we have the opportunity to commune directly with the Almighty God of the Universe, the Creator of Everything, the One Who Is, Love Itself. He is also our Father who wants to hear our needs and wants to help us.
Don’t know where to start? Jesus had good advice.
2) Read the Scriptures, Church Fathers, and the Catechism: The Bible is the Word of God, or, as the Catechism puts it, “the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.” Read that a second time. Now let that sink in. Why we should read the Bible should be self-evident.
The Church Fathers are not the Word of God, but they are important since they bear witness to the faith of the early Church. You’ll be inspired in their love of God, be amazed at the continuity of the Church over such a long period of time, and deepen your knowledge of the faith. (Warning for Protestant Christians: reading the Church fathers may lead you to the Catholic faith.)
The Catechism is an authoritative summary of the Church’s faith. Want to know where the Church stands on just about any issue? You’ll probably find it there.
3) Evangelize: There are only two possible final outcomes for every human soul: eternity in heaven with God, or eternity in hell. Jesus is our only hope for gaining the former and avoiding the latter. And I mean our only hope. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14.6). There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are to be saved (Acts 4.12).
If God has been so loving as to show us the way of salvation, our love for others should naturally compel us to share the Good News with them. Also, Jesus commanded us to evangelize.
4) Avoid Sin, Cultivate the Virtues: One might say that this sounds simpler than it really is, but actually it really is this simple. God has provided us the grace we need from Christ in the Sacraments. Our consciences can give us a pretty good idea of what’s right and wrong. The Church can give us guidance in those areas that are hazy or controversial. Then we just have to… decide to avoid sin and to cultivate the virtues. There’s no other secret.
5) Serve: The unborn need saving, the starving need food, and the weak need protection. Whose job is it to do these things? Your job. Our job. Everyone’s job. Whether we serve those in need will determine whether or not we go to heaven.
6) Go to Mass: At Mass, we join with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to learn from the holy Word of God, we get to unite ourselves with the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ which is mysteriously made present, and then we receive Christ himself, consummating our eternal bond of love. There’s nothing we can do that’s more important than Mass.