Renewal in the Spirit

The new year is upon us. The recent fiestas, meals and religious observances are now behind us. And, as happens each year, New Year’s resolutions now beckon our attention. Like millions of people around the world, we, too, find ourselves striving for new order, purpose and direction in our lives.

Usually, this yearly goal-setting ritual commences when we take stock of our past aspirations. Often with reluctance, we review the previous goals and move through our successes and failures, noting any achievements or disappointments that were due to our drive, focus or determination (or lack thereof). And, in some cases, we even acknowledge the fact that our own idleness and forgetfulness may have gotten in the way.

Far from deterring us, this assessment motivates us to do better. Deep inside, we hope that this new year will be different, and we find the courage to start fresh. For most, this renewed goal setting comprises the predictable categories of health, personal growth, finances, family, love and career. Perhaps more than before, our new aspirations will be influenced by the difficulties of the past year.

The reality of COVID-19 has fundamentally challenged us, individually and collectively. We’ve had to evaluate and negotiate the connections between our personal health and the well-being of others. The same can be said of our collective pursuit for economic success and personal financial stability. As a human family, we continue to experience the devastating impact brought about by this health crisis on the global economy and are able to note its disproportionate effects on our local communities.

Closer to home, our family, personal and professional relationships have also been dramatically impacted by the pandemic. Together, we’ve had to adapt and adjust to new ways of expressing our care for one another, especially in showing our love for our family members. Confronted by the limits of social interactions and the absence of loved ones, we found responsible and virtual ways to engage.

Undeniably, the presence of COVID-19 in our lives will continue to make small and big demands on each one of us. Even as we look into the new horizon with all its possibility, the sober reality of this new normal lingers and cannot be downplayed or ignored. At the same time, however, we can’t overlook the fact that amidst this turmoil and pain, the grace of God and the resilience of the human spirit continue to be strong.

In various ways, we have seen the Spirit of God guiding us. Rather than give into a spirit of pessimism, passivity or fatal determinism, we are shaping paths that help us keep on walking with renewed hope and trust in our faith, recognizing the goodness before us (Galatians 5:22-25). Furthermore, during times of chaos and pain, we have clung to the Spirit of freedom, reflecting the glory of the Lord in our ongoing transformation and renewal (2 Corinthians 17-18).

Now, at the threshold of new opportunities, we reconnect to the spirit of freedom and renewal as a way to discern practical resolutions. We know in faith that the direction, purpose and order we desire is not far from the goal the spirit of truth has set before us, namely, to create a more visible culture of care and solidarity in our world: “Carry each other’s burdens; that is how to keep the law of Christ … . So then, as long as we have the opportunity let all our actions be for the good of everybody (Galatians 6:2;10).

F. Javier Orozco

First published January 14, 2021 in the St. Louis Review