Remembering and keeping the good

An enduring tradition of the New Year is the practice of resolutions. The idea of welcoming the new horizon with fresh perspectives and goals is desirable and seems achievable. And unlike many other cultural practices that may be more limiting, New Year’s resolutions can be adopted by many.

We all decide what the number and nature of our intended goals will be. While there may be some common ground, for example, in pursuing physical health habits or wanting to be a better human being, specific resolutions always reflect the individual’s personality.

This personal goal-setting approach is supported also by our cultural propensity to value self-determination and individual grit. Culturally, we thrive in competitive environments and often affirm the importance of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. So, we embark on our resolutions with great enthusiasm.

Yet, we readily recognize that many well-intended resolutions seldom last more than a month or two. Beyond the statistics showing the high percentage of failed attempts, we have friends or family members who began strong and lost momentum along the way — truth be told, we may be among those whose zeal and drive was short-lived.

A silver lining for many of us is knowing that success often depends on community support. Having accountability partners can keep us focused on our goals and can provide needed encouragement when our fervor is running low. So, it is advisable to share our aspirations with confidants who know us well and can help us stay on the right path.

This year, Pope Francis shared with our community of faith an essential spiritual resolution for our focus and mutual accountability. In his homily on the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, he exhorted us to turn our gaze to the Mother of God for guidance and encouragement in our journey of faith. More specifically, he noted how Mary “keeps all things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

For Pope Francis, this practice of keeping and pondering all things in our hearts implies a proactive effort to open ourselves up as life continuously unfolds with both goodness and difficulties. Like Mary, we must be willing to hold on to the beautiful and to the troubling or unpleasant things that have taken place, finding ways to bind them together. “It is the way of mothers, who, in moments of tension, do not divide, they keep, and in this way enable life to grow.”

Today, as we look around the world, Church and society, we can forget the good and truth that binds us (John 14:6) and find excuses to further divide our human family into an “us vs. them.” Sadly, we see in our civic and ecclesial relations troubling attitudes, language and actions corroding our commitment to the common good and inherent dignity of persons. Nevertheless, in moments of tension, we must remember to see the instances when the beauty and resilience of the human spirit also led the way forward in hope, community and generosity.

As we discern God’s priorities for this time of spiritual and social renewal, let us be resolved to hold on to Mary’s example and with her keep and remember the Good News of Christ that is always before us (Luke 4:16-20). And together, as a community of faith and mutual accountability, let us pray to the Spirit of truth for guidance, encouragement and endurance along the way.

F. Javier Orozco

First published January 21, 2022 in the St. Louis Review