It is time for New Year's resolutions. They fit in very nicely, in fact, with the pattern of Christian life, which is meant to be a constant repentance, a continuous renewal, a serious striving to unite our lives more perfectly with the grace which Christ constantly bestows upon us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be 'imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love' by conforming their thoughts, words, and actions to the 'mind…which is yours in Christ Jesus,' and by following his example" (CCC 1694).
The fact that we must resolve anew to follow Christ each day does not take away the special meaning of times like the dawn of a new year. These special times give us a spiritual and psychological impetus that is not usually present at other times. We are strengthened by the similar efforts of others, and renewed by the worldwide celebration of a new moment in time being given to us. It is part of a great exchange: God gives us life in this world, measured by years, and we give it back to Him by faithful service.
Yet some people are afraid of making New Year's resolutions, because they don't want the unhappy experience of the failure of keeping them.
I encourage you to press forward with courage and to make them anyway, and here's why. The idea of making a resolution is not that you will keep it perfectly. Success is not measured by "never breaking" the resolution. Success, rather, is measured by the fact that you renew the resolution one time more than you break it. That, too, patterns the Christian life. Our baptismal commitment to keep the commandments does not mean we never sin. It means that we repent one time more than we sin. There is our victory. There is the victory of the saints, all of whom were sinners (except Mary) who just kept on trying; they all fell, but they got up once more than they fell.
What, then, do we resolve to do?
Our resolution should address the next good step in our spiritual growth. This takes a bit of self-knowledge. What is our most common sin, our most frequent temptation? What is the one thing we need to separate ourselves from that keeps causing that temptation? What is the relationship we have to mend that we have been ignoring all too long?
Finally, these questions apply not only to individuals, but to societies. Without a doubt, the most destructive sin and glaring fault of our society continues to be the way we dispose of human life, especially by abortion. Along with your personal spiritual resolution, may I urge us all to resolve to do more to end the tragedy of abortion by, for example, reading a pro-life book or periodical, donating to a pro-life organization, volunteering at a pregnancy assistance center, participating at a pro-life prayer vigil, or writing a letter to the editor. Let this New Year bring about a new respect for life!