The New Year is a traditional time to begin again and to try to make our lives better. This is the origin of New Year’s Resolutions. Pope Francis knows that so often actions speak louder than words, and by both his actions and his words he can help us become better people.
The first resolution we can work on is prayer. This year Pope Francis will be giving a new catechesis on the Our Father and explaining how it relates to our lives. He started this series of talks just before Christmas. Here he invited all Christians to renew their effort of prayer “Even if perhaps we have prayed for many years, we must always learn.” And rather than thinking that we are perfect the Holy Father recommends humility in prayer, “the first step to pray,” he says “is to be humble, to go to the Father and say: Look at me, I’m a sinner, I’m weak” This is so important because, “the Lord listens to a humble prayer.”
Another important resolution that we can make is to spend quality time with others. Last August during his visit to Ireland at the Festival of Families in Croke Park, Pope Francis encouraged us to limit the amount of time we spend on social media. “It is important … that these media never become a threat to the real web of flesh and blood relationships by imprisoning us in a virtual reality and isolating us from the concrete relationships that challenge us to grow to our full potential in communion with others.” Perhaps we could make a resolution at least at mealtimes to turn off our phones and to spend time with those around us, engaging real people in real time.
When we make time for others, we shouldn’t simply care for those who we get along with and who are our friends. It is also important to make time even for those who are not our friends. Here we can learn from Pope Francis’ example. Shortly after his election, Mario Palmaro, an Italian journalist co-authored a newspaper article that criticized Pope Francis. The pope read the article and sometime later heard that Palmaro was gravely ill. Rather than being annoyed with Palmero, Pope Francis telephonedhim to wish him well and let him know that he was remembering him in his prayers. When Palmero said that he had no idea that the pope would read the article, the Holy Father assured him that he “understood that the critics had been moved by love for the pope.”
Another resolution that will help many of us is to become closer to the poor. Pope Francis is a great advocate for the dignity of those who society does not consider and he often criticizes our throwaway culture that considers some people as useless. On all of his international trips, he always works in time to visit the old, the poor and the sick. It is never enough to just give money or donate goods to the poor, we are also called to love them. Human contact can be as important as physical help. During his 2016 trip to Sweden at Mass in Malmo the Pope went so far as to propose a new beatitude for those who help others. “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.”
If these few suggestions don’t provide enough inspiration for your New Year’s Resolution, allow me to share a list of proposals by the pope. In December 2014, Pope Francis met with the lay employees of the Vatican and their families, there he proposed some New Year’s resolutions to them. These could provide inspiration for us as we start our new year:
· “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
· “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”
· “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
· “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”
· “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
· “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
· “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”
· “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
· “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”