Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
Well, I’ve just written the year 2022 for the first time and I didn’t have to scratch out an erroneous 21 to do it. I guess that is a success of sorts. But since I am writing this on the third day of the new year, this isn’t the first accurate thing I have done and for sure I haven’t been without a misstep or two along the way. It’s not that I have already violated a New Year’s Resolution; I didn’t make any. In fact, I can’t remember when I last made a serious resolution. Of course, at my age, there are a lot of things I can’t remember. In just a few months I will begin my eighth decade which provides me with sufficient excuse for most of my failures; forgetfulness, tardiness, sloth, grumpiness, impatience, prejudice, -- well, maybe not prejudice. But I digress. What I started out to express was the fact that we have just celebrated hope for a positive change in the new year, but do we really expect anything to change?
It’s not wrong to hope the new year will be better than the last, and by most measures, even a mostly mundane year would be a considerable improvement over our recent experience. But what do we mean by hope? A basic definition of hope is “desire with expectation of fulfillment;” we could say, “wishful thinking.” But when we have our hearts tuned to God, there is a greater dimension to hope. First of all, hope is a feature of the three theological virtues defined by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 13:13; “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Thus, he defines hope as a collaborator along with faith and love as that which fosters our relationship with the Lord. Indeed, the author of Hebrews makes this connection as he writes. “Faith is the subject of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” By faith, we put our trust in God and this trust elevates hope beyond the realm of wishful thinking to that of assuredness in the promises of God. And while faith enables us to come to God, it is love which enables us to imitate Him.
Therefore, hope for a change for the better, whether it comes with the beginning of a new year or the dawn of any new day, must begin with a decision to change ourselves. Making a resolution is a start, it is a confession of the need for the change. But, just as confession must be followed by repentance, the resolution must be followed by action. There is a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein but which probably preceded him which says, “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.” Every failed venture, must be analyzed to determine a cause, followed by a plan for correction.
A favorite old cartoon was called Pogo featuring the antics of animated swamp creatures. One offering showed a variety of these critters dressed in paper hats and sporting wooden swords going off to fight their imaginary foes. They climbed into a flat-bottom boat and with several different participants trying to paddle the boat and being unable to coordinate their efforts, they bumped and thumped among the trees until they slammed into an island causing several of them to roll out of the boat onto the land. At this, Pogo jumped up, raised his sword, and proclaimed, “We have met the enemy, and they is us!”
This may describe many of us. Often the first step to lasting change in our lives is admitting that the problem may mostly be our own fault; it is the result of choices we have made. And if things are to change, we will have to change. But it is also true that we are unlikely to make such change if we rely strictly on our own wisdom and strength. Just wishful thinking, just hoping for a change, isn’t going to get the job
done. We need the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. We need the hope that exists in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope is in the power of the Lord.
Let this be our prayer, “Help me to change Lord, help me to be like You, help me to love like You.”