We are now seven weeks into the year 2024. At the beginning of the year, many of us made New Year’s resolutions. We might have resolved to better our physical health, strengthen our relationships, work on developing a particular skill, lessen our time on social media, or do something else that would improve our lives and the lives of others.
Such resolutions are easy to make but hard to keep. How many of us may have already broken the resolutions we made in January? In fact, some of us make the same resolutions every year because those resolutions never move beyond good intentions.
The individuals who succeed in keeping their resolutions are those who make it a point to recall them each day. Perhaps the most successful are those who tell a friend about their resolutions and ask that friend to check on them, to encourage them, and to hold them to account.
The start of Lent is a time for Christians to make resolutions. On Ash Wednesday, we were marked with ashes and told, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” We hear those same words in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark1:12-15). After his baptism and time of testing in the desert, Jesus began his public ministry by proclaiming, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
In response to that call to “repent,” we are encouraged to resolve to do something specific during Lent to help us move away from sin and grow in our spiritual life.
Those Lenten resolutions can include allocating a certain amount of time each day to prayer or scripture reading, attending an extra Mass or two each week, spending more quality time with our family, becoming involved in some charitable activity, making an effort to overcome a particular sin or negative habit, being more patient and forgiving, avoiding a favorite food or activity as a sacrifice for our sins, etc.
We will likely keep our Lenten resolutions during the first weeks of Lent but by the fourth or fifth week of Lent we may find those resolutions being forgotten just like those we made in January.
If we want to remain faithful to our Lenten resolutions, we should follow the example of those who succeed in keeping their New Year’s promises.
We should write out what we have resolved to do for Lent and put that paper in a place that will catch our attention each day. We might make reading that paper part of our daily prayer. We might even recall our resolutions during the Penitential Rite at Mass as we thank God for our successes and seek his mercy for “what I have failed to do.”
Most importantly, we might tell a family member, friend, or even our parish priest what we have resolved to do for Lent and ask that person to check on our progress. We all do better when we are held to account.
Finally, we should ask God’s help in keeping our Lenten promises. In Sunday’s Gospel, we hear that during the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert “the angels ministered to him.” We might ask the Lord to “minister” to us during these 40 days of Lent as we seek to “repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Like the start of a new year, the start of Lent is a time for making resolutions, but even more importantly, Lent is a time for keeping those resolutions and growing in holiness.
© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski