“This year is going to be different.”
We say it every year. We all said it, even if only to ourselves, as we saw the new year in.
How’s that working out for you, so far?
You want to know what is almost as consistent as our resolving to change? Falling right back into the old habits and routines by mid-February, if not sooner.
Sometimes way sooner. How did your January go?
Now, I am not trying to be pessimistic or cynical about resolutions. A desire to bring about greater peace or happiness is at the heart of any resolution, and those are good things. I commend everyone who is determined to improve their lives.
In this season of Eucharistic Revival within our Church, however, perhaps there’s a better way to experience transformation. While resolutions can help provide structure and direction, they ultimately depend on our own limited willpower and abilities – they do not, generally, lean on grace. Further, they often focus on external changes, such as exercising more or improving productivity – laudable goals, but ones that rarely address the deeper aspects of our being.
For meaningful change to happen in our lives, we may have to face the fact that it will mean allowing God to take charge of them, and then each of us slouching our way toward surrender.
Which, in a way, sounds about right. When Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), wasn’t he telling us to lean on grace – to lean on him because God means to accompany us in all our strivings? It seems clear to me that we aren’t meant to just push along on our own steam, doomed to be disappointed by our own human frailness.
I’ve thought sometimes that what can be even worse than failures and setbacks is managing to accomplish a few significant levels of change through our own determination and self-will. Like toddlers who are proud of being able to do something new, we feel great about it – and then begin to believe we can do everything “all by ourselves.” And perhaps we can for a little while, but sooner or later, determination meets with unseen or misunderstood realities.
Meanwhile, we may have opened ourselves up to the temptation to pride – believing we don’t need God’s help, or thinking that those who haven’t been disciplined and successful must simply be weak-willed losers.
Only God can do the work required for a truly transformed life. Our part is to show up, ready to receive what he offers us. He has given us all the means of grace by which we can experience real change: prayer and the sacraments – in particular, reception and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
As Pope Saint John Paul II asked in “Ecclesia De Eucharistia”: “Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?” (No. 60).
It comes down to the difference between resolution and revival. Both require intentionality and effort, but grace requires some interior openness and spiritual docility, as well.
Resolution focuses on what we believe we can change. Revival is about letting God change us, in any way he wills. Our responsibility is faithfulness; God’s is fruitfulness. While a new year offers an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, God extends an invitation to new life.
I’m not saying that attending more Masses or praying additional rosaries in 2024 will culminate in shedding a few extra pounds or becoming the efficiency guru we’ve always dreamed we could be (though it certainly couldn’t hurt!). Rather, I am suggesting that this year – especially for those of us whose resolutions have already gone sideways – let’s remember to make space for God to do greater works within and through us.
It’s still early in 2024. If you haven’t done so, make your resolutions. If you’re already feeling like a failure, tomorrow is another day. Begin again and invite God into it. Let us strive to be better in all ways, but let’s not merely settle for resolutions when God offers revival. Our grit is good, but God’s grace is better.
Kris Frank is Vice President of Growth and Marketing for the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc.