January 15, 2010

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

We can be glad that it’s that time of year again

Cynthia DewesThere is a certain advantage to aging, believe it or not.

For one thing, we can read a book or watch a movie we have read or seen before and not recognize it until we have enjoyed it (or hated it) all over again. A small but significant pleasure.

Then we have things like Christmas carols or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which we have seen or heard so many times that they are familiar to us. Sometimes so familiar that we have become sick of them, but personally I love them every year. Bring them on, I say, with the possible exception of that annoying “Little Drummer Boy.”

The New Year also brings old favorites to our attention or at least other familiar things, such as “Auld Lang Syne,” year-end lists of more events than we really care to remember, and rather depressing reviews of the famous and infamous people who have died during the past year. The occasion provides a time to reflect and go forward, perhaps even changing some things in ourselves or our situations.

Thus, the New Year is a time to consider our mortality in light of the promise brought to us at Christmas. If the past year was difficult or depressing for us, we can hope for better times. If we fear death, we can focus on the life to come, and if we fear judgment, we can depend upon the forgiveness of an ever-loving God.

It seems to me that this time of year is rather like the sacrament of reconciliation. It is a time to repent and refocus, even if we realize to our chagrin that we are repeating the same sins over and over. Perhaps these are faults of character or simply of being human in certain ways, but whatever they are we hope to change.

Ergo, the annual New Year’s List of Resolutions. This effort seemed easier when we were children, planning to clean our rooms when Mom asked or to ignore Bratty Brother when he was annoying, even though that was most of the time.

Sometimes, maybe to avert the issue, we concoct silly promises: We will clean house if and when we can’t wade through the piles of junk, or we will be sure to eat a rich dessert at every meal. But usually, as adults we get serious, vowing not to drink too much, nag our spouses and children or waste money. But somehow, child or adult, we may slip away from our good intentions as the year progresses. Often, the same happens after making a confession.

Lest we become disheartened, we should remember what Christmas promises every year, namely the possibility of eternal union with a perfect God. Instead of whining about our never-ending faults, maybe we could try to tap into the perfection displayed by God all around us for our instruction and our pleasure.

Maybe we could create a haven of peace and comfort for others as God does for us in the silence of nature and the beauty of music. Maybe we could nurture others with practical needs, such as a good meal or a place to stay, or nurture them with understanding and good humor.

Maybe we should just be quiet and let God work through us however it happens. Instead of changing ourselves with checklists and rules, we could be patient and let God make the changes.

Every year we aim for perfection, and maybe this is the year.

Now that would be a truly Happy New Year!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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