My latest for the Knoxville News Sentinel:
By the time you’re reading these words, it’s likely most of your New Year’s resolutions have made their way to the dustbin of good intentions. You might feel discouraged about not remaining faithful to your resolutions, so much so that you’re tempted to give up on them, or even on the idea of taking on efforts in self-improvement. Let me offer a word of encouragement.
St. Paul tells us, “Working together with him [Christ], then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.’ Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
We sometimes put off adopting efforts to improve ourselves for some special day or anniversary. I suppose that’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about. It’s a New Year! What better time to commit myself to the effort to improve my lifestyle? Or, maybe I’ll wait for the first of the month, or my next birthday … or whatever day is coming up that seems like a perfect time to start something new. Taking St. Paul’s advice, though, there’s not need to wait for some special day. God has given us many wonderful graces during this past Christmas season, especially the grace of His Son who came to save us. Don’t receive this grace in vain, St. Paul tells us. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day we can start afresh. Today is the day we can re-commit ourselves to following Christ with greater fervor and faithfulness.
Fr. Jean Nicolas Grou was a priest who lived through the terrors of the French Revolution. In all the struggles he faced, he came to develop a spirituality of great simplicity. One of Fr. Grou’s recommendations for the spiritual life is to make a commitment to be faithful to what he calls “little things.” “Great things,” Fr. Grou says, “cannot be accomplished without great graces on the part of God. But to merit and obtain these great and special graces, we must have been faithful to the smaller graces. Humility wishes that we look on great things as far above us and that we never of ourselves aspire to the; humility teaches us to attach ourselves to little things, as being more within our reach. Let us, then, perform our little and everyday actions with fidelity to our ordinary graces, and let us be quite sure that, when God requires greater things from us, He will certainly care to give us the necessary graces.”
Morning and evening prayer may be the work of monks, but a brief morning devotion, or an examination of your day at night, is something you can do. Maybe reading an entire chapter of the Bible every day is too much, but a few verses is within your reach. Even if you commit yourself to reading only one verse when you awake in the morning or before you go to sleep, you’ll be surprised at how much grace is obtained in that one small commitment.
There’s no need to put off a commitment to improving your spiritual life to some day in the future that seems like a good time to start. Today is the day of salvation. Start today. As well, there’s no need to take on great spiritual commitments. Start with little things, and God will give you the grace to build on them.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.