New Year Resolve

It is often said that resolutions are made to be broken. That statement is often not true.

How many people with an alcohol problem have sworn off the demon and can point to days, months, years, decades of sobriety? Alcoholics Anonymous, if they would and they won't, could provide volumes of evidence here. How many drug abuses, with significant help, have broken the chains of addiction? How many smokers have sworn off the habit and now breathe free with a new hold on life? The recently released figures showing reduced numbers of teens smoking are encouraging news. How many people have looked at a weight problem and with a careful plan have attacked it successfully? Similarly with sex addictions, the records of recovery offer convincing hope for many.

Yes, we are into a New Year, 2002, a time of new hope, new enthusiasm, new energy. True, there is melancholy on the passing of another year. But we are not Peter Pans, doomed to be juveniles for a lifetime. We are more valuable as we get older.

New Year's is a time for pondering past and future. From the experience of a divided mind, an uneasy conscience, a sense of personal failure, we can bring new focus to the finer tastes, the finer pleasures, the finer aspirations upon which to pitch our lives.

We do grow. Five years' experience is not one year repeated five times. Neither are we Scheherazade of The Arabian Nights, telling a different story for each of 1001 nights.

John Masefield titled his autobiography, So Long to Learn. But he did learn. At the age of 42 he was named poet laureate of England in 1930 and remained such until he died in 1967.

Some people eat ice cream to restore youth, innocence, and simplicity. Maybe today it is non-fat yogurt. No matter how complicated and problematic our lives, however, there is a remembered idealism, a residual innocence upon which to build.

Fresh starts, new chances, hopeful beginnings remain available. We are accustomed to a bit of snow in our area during these months. Snow quiets the atmosphere, puts a soft focus lens on the landscape. It is conducive to meditation. As we reflect on the past and ponder the future, we look to those dark areas, blind spots, obstacles in our lives that inhibit our development and prevent a stronger communion with God.

We can't afford to underestimate the power of evil, the power of sin in our lives. We are lifted, however, by our conviction that where evil and sin abound, grace abounds even more. As George Bernanos writes in the closing sentence of The Diary of a Country Priest, "Grace is everywhere."

So we make our resolutions. We dig down within ourselves to exercise deeper reserves, greater vigor. We move forward to strengthen ourselves and offer more pronounced service to others. Through all the challenges we kneel transparent before God in prayer for His graces.

The year 2002 in our Diocese will see renewed attention to the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are calling for extensive catechesis in every parish on the new "General Introduction to the Roman Missal." You have already heard about this. You will be hearing more.

The Eucharist is the source and the summit of all our Christian life. As we make our resolutions for the New Year, we might highlight more frequent participation in the Eucharist, the Mass, as fundamental to all we are doing. We might consider it the mother of all our resolutions.

Happy 2002! May our experience in the next twelve months be a cause for profound joy this time next year.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
January 1, 2002