Most people are not very fond of the first full week of January. It’s dark and cold, and the post-holiday letdown has kicked in. Our once gorgeous Christmas trees now lie by the curb, dry and brittle, completely naked except for a few straggling pieces of tinsel. Also, the credit card bills for December are due in the mail any day now. And when we open those credit card bills, we’re sure to exclaim, “Why did those stores in the mall FORCE me to spend so much money?!”
Yes, this time of year can be quite depressing. To add to the gloom, we also may be frustrated by the realization that we’ve already failed to keep our New Year’s resolutions.
New Year’s resolutions are good—in theory. As the Christmas season concludes, we likely have developed a fair number of bad habits, such as eating and drinking too much, sleeping too little, and whipping out the credit card as if our last name was Kardashian. So, as we turn the page on a brand new calendar, it seems proper to resolve to cut out some of the unhealthy habits we’ve developed.
We vow to stop drinking, to stop eating bad food, and to lose ten pounds. We vow to get to sleep by 9:30 each evening, and to join a health club and work out every day. But then reality sets in. The health club idea falls through because our credit card gets rejected when we try to buy a membership. The diet vow is broken when we realize the fridge is stuffed with leftovers from multiple holiday parties, and of course it would be a sin to throw out perfectly good lasagna, pumpkin pie, and those three glazed hams. So, we take the edge off our post-holiday blues by having an occasional snack or two or twelve.
May I suggest that instead of focusing on physical things—food and exercise and sleep—we try a different approach to New Year’s resolutions. We should try a spiritual approach and resolve to develop some good habits of the soul.
I have two suggestions that may seem a bit daunting at first, but compared to going to a health club every day and giving up our favorite food and drink, my suggestions are a piece of cake (or possibly a piece of pumpkin pie, assuming we haven’t eaten all the leftovers by now).
The first suggestion is to spend a few minutes each day reading the Bible. I know, I hear you. “It’s too confusing!” “I don’t know where to start!” “I thought Catholics weren’t allowed to read the Bible!”
Here’s a simple plan: read one chapter of a Gospel each day. It takes less than five minutes. Pick one of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or Bob—and begin with chapter one. (Yeah, I know there’s no Gospel of Bob. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)
The four Gospels have a total of 89 chapters. So, it takes about three months, at a rate of four or five minutes per day, to go through all four. By April it will be time to start over again. It’s a very easy habit to develop, and it’s very rewarding.
The second suggestion also is simple: go to Confession each month. Oh please, stop whining. Confession is NOT scary. The priests are very gentle and helpful. Confession is an awesome sacrament that completely refreshes us from the inside out. And considering how we behaved at the company Christmas party (yes, everyone was watching), it’s not like we have nothing to confess. And best of all, after Confession, feel free to have a piece of pumpkin pie.