At the start of every new year, I go through the same assessment of how the past year progressed and what the start of a new year promises. Like almost everyone I know, I hear many conversations about New Years resolutions and the grades assigned to last years. But how many of us really take to heart a resolution that is an investment in our Christian life?
So many people have found their world turned upside down with the financial crisis, and this has left many leery of the future. We also have seen two very long years in the presidential election that have left many people of faith disillusioned with the possibilities for the pro-life movement and our collective future. Even with a number of burdensome struggles, as pilgrims with hearts fixed on the Good News, we can find a fresh renewal in this new year. Focusing anew on the life offered in Christ, we can get our bearings and again personally address the concerns of the world around us.
If I may, Id like to suggest as a New Years resolution the reclaiming of our minds for Christ. When I teach an introduction to moral theology, we always start with the doctrine of human dignity: every human being, as a composite of mind, body and soul, has inalienable dignity as the image of the triune God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What I suggest this new year is to reclaim your mind for Christ. Permit Christ to be the Lord of your mind, your thoughts and your aspiring dreams. As an integral part of who we are, our minds can be the gateway to an entirely new take on life.
One of the greatest obstacles to modern evangelization is the myriad distractions that fill up the lives of many. Without a doubt, we can point to the great power and influence of the media. A young person today has hours of exposure to the influences of television, the Internet and popular music. We dont even seem to be in control of what goes into our minds. We seem to be the innocent bystanders who find ourselves filled with competing messages and unwillingly overcome by a general haze of anxious distraction.
Were busier than ever, more hurried than ever, and yet, many of us are plagued by a general uneasiness that leaves little room for the refreshment of hope in ones beleaguered heart. We are burdened with all kinds of mixed and confusing messages. Its no wonder that young families struggle with finding the time for Sunday Mass when many cant even hear the call to pray and worship. There are too many demands competing for our attention.
Father Henri Nouwen, a popular author and psychologist, observed: Do we really want our mind to become the garbage can of the world? Do we want our mind to be filled with things that confuse us, excite us, depress us, arouse us, repulse us, or attract us whether we think it is good for us or not? Do we want to let others decide what enters into our mind and determines our thoughts and feelings? Clearly we do not, but it requires real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind.
Your entire person is renewed when your mind more clearly focuses on Christ. We naturally need to search for and then dwell in Christ. When God commanded us to keep holy the Sabbath, it was for our good to rest and better know ourselves in God. It is refreshing to know the unconditional love God has for me. How easy it is to smile when one deeply and personally knows his or her incalculable value to God, who is the way, the truth and the life. We are loved beyond words all the way to the Cross and beyond the grave. So, how do you live conscious of this wonderful Good News?
As Father Nouwen wrote, it requires real discipline. Turn off the TV and pull the iPod out of your ears, and take on the simple discipline once a week, then once a day, of turning your attention over to the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. You could start with a simple prayer at meal-time or bedtime. Thank God for the blessings in your life family, friends, food, clothing, a home, a job and life itself. The simple and life-giving hallmark of the Christian life is being thankful. The better you know God, the more youre able to thank God.
Another easy way of turning your minds eye to Christ is the practice of spiritual reading. Find the writings of authors such as Father Nouwen and read a few pages at the start or end of your day. Turn your attention to your experience of God in a growing and conscious quest for the comfort and quiet of God. We can experience a big change in ourselves even by taking a simple 20-minute walk around the neighborhood while being mindful of God at work all around us. Allow your thoughts to flow routinely to the world through Christ. What would strike Christ in the morning newspaper, or concern him in the workplace, or be an occasion of joy for him among your friends? Whom should you be praying for? It seems too simple, and yet it is a lifes journey, to live for and in Christ Jesus.
In short, may this new year be a new start with Christ as the Lord of your mind. Perhaps, 2009 can be a year when the busy, hurried life we all feel pulled by can be replaced by the refreshment of Christ as Lord of our minds. May we think, reflect, dream and wonder in Christ Jesus this new year.
Father Hinkley is the Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish and Rector of the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, both in Waterbury.