‘I get to bed early and stay there until it’s all over’, ‘ it’s the loneliest night of the year’, ‘it’s the most expensive night in the year’, ‘there’s too much hype about it’ these were just some of the phrases I heard used in the few days before New Year’s Eve. It was obvious that for many, New Year’s Eve was something of an emotional challenge and not necessarily the happy party night that is often presented in the big count down. Here in St. Matthew’s, an increasing number of people each year choose to come to Mass on New Years Eve and ‘see in the New Year’ in the company of Jesus. How did you ‘see in the New Year’, we now call 2018?
The newspapers, magazines and other media in these few days are largely taken up with looking back or looking forward. What were the highs and lows? What were the successes, what were the flops? Who had a good year? Who had a bad year? What is your New Year Resolution? What is your aim for the year ahead? Have you worked out your goals? Where do you hope to be this time next year?
With all this going on I think it’s a good time to ask ourselves a few key questions about how we are getting on as we travel along the spiritual journey? Amidst all the looking back perhaps a good question might be ‘Did I come closer to Jesus in 2017?’ ‘Do I know him better?’ ‘What’s the evidence for this?’
This time of year is often when people do a big clear out. The annual spring clean. This could prompt us to look at what we are carrying that is not doing us any good. Maybe it’s time to name the spiritual toxins and start getting rid of them. Just by way of example I will name three particularly poisonous spiritual toxins:
Guilt ——— Anger ——— Fear
The first of these can be quite difficult to deal with as it can be a curious mix of a very positive knowing we could have done better and a torturous paralysis of what if? Funnily enough anger can also have its positive side, in so far as there is such a thing as righteous anger or the anger of the just. Of course there is destructive rage and we should all be mindful of an anger turned in on ourselves that can be a creeping type of depression. Finally there is arguably nothing that shuts us down, binds us, destroys our enjoyment more than fear. Once fear gets a foothold in our lives it tends to seep into every corner. It kills our enjoyment and ultimately destroys our freedom. If we could name these dragons, or perhaps more accurately demons, within, and establish a pattern of calling them out as soon as we recognise them, would we not have made significant headway in claiming back the freedom of our soul? In so doing are we not striking a serious blow for peace of mind?
Regret in itself is a serious waste of time. Regret is an emotional cul de sac. There is some little merit in regret if it is accompanied by a genuine learning and a real commitment not to repeat the error. However most forms of regret have little value and the worst form, and unfortunately the very common form of regret, is a form of self destruction. The great Christian antidote to this self destructive regret is trust. This trust is not hit and miss. This trust is as old as ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus I place all my trust in thee’ and as contemporary as Divine Mercy. It is as natural and as simple as the heartfelt aspiration ‘Jesus I trust in your Mercy and in your never ending love for
If the answer to the regrets of the past year is a renewal of trust in Jesus then this trust has also got something to say to us about resolution. Apparently New Year resolutions are for the most part dead by mid- January. Could this be connected with what they are built on? Could it be different? Would it be different if we formed our intentions as a commitment? Would it be even better if we formed them as a commitment to Christ? So maybe for this year let’s let go of useless regret and get serious about renewing our commitment to building a meaningful relationship with Jesus and see what happens then. If we show up, if we are open, if we welcome him he will respond with a depth of generosity unique to the divine.