In his masterpiece, The Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis describes God’s intention for creating His children in the following way:
God did not create you because He had any need of you, for you are wholly useless to Him, but only that He might exercise towards you His goodness, bestowing on you His grace and glory. To accomplish this, he has given you an understanding to know Him, a memory to remember Him, a will to love Him, an imagination to recall His mercies, eyes to see the wonders of His works, a tongue to praise Him, and so with all your other faculties. Therefore, being created and placed in the world for this purpose, you should avoid and reject all actions which are contrary to it; and despise as idle and superfluous all which do not promote it.
St. Francis’ description of how God views man provides us with spiritual direction on how to actively engage and develop spiritual resolutions, especially ones to actively strengthen our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But what happens if the spiritual resolutions you set for the new year begin to be ignored or worst completely forgotten and your left with the thought of starting over?
Why God reveals Himself
God never ceases revealing His love for us as evidenced by the Son of God Jesus Christ who became man. The gift of the Incarnation allows us to know our Father in Heaven more intimately through an active and personal relationship with Jesus Christ that involves the invocation of trust, desire, and curiosity. These three facets are very important because they call us to seek Christ and investigate Him who is the way, the truth and the light.
Does God’s love for us serve as an antidote to avoid the frustration and possible despair of renewing your spiritual resolutions? The simple answer is yes, whether we choose to believe or reject God’s love is a different story altogether. Let’s keep in mind that God desires to spiritually nurture us and save us from our own sins through His Son Jesus Christ who would offer the ultimate sacrifice of death on a cross.
When you make a sincere attempt to “start over” with your spiritual resolutions, first make the genuine effort to listen in faith to God’s Word and begin to meditate on Sacred Scripture and even practice Lectio Divina-the process of meditating, contemplating, and proclaiming the Word of God. The premise behind any spiritual resolution is to desire change-conversion and walk away from any and all behaviors that would prevent you from developing an active relationship with Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church remind us:
Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to seek and to knock since he himself is the door and the way.
When we make the effort to spiritually start over, our recognition of the Gospel becomes clearer, we see the fruit of the Gospel and the nourishment it provides in our Christian journey through a proclamation of the Word and acceptance of the Gospel that arguably leads us toward an interior conversion of faith with our ultimate aim centered on communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Jesus Christ is our aim
Whenever we are faced with the task of spiritually starting over, we cannot forget that our aim is Jesus Christ. Any form of spiritual renewal and conversion is directly tied to Jesus to whom the Kingdom is brought to fulfillment. The root of conversion involves a renunciation of sin and a change toward the good. It is a purification of the mind and the heart toward Christ and His Church.
The conversion of St. Paul for example is both an event and a journey. It reveals the direct healing and loving power of Jesus Christ and the fruits of this love when we actively choose to listen, obey, and live out this love. St. Paul’s journey provides a clear example of Jesus’ love for us because of His desire to bring St. Paul home. The story of the Prodigal Son for instance demonstrates how the love of a father can help a son “start over” and live a life rooted in love.
Our Christian identity is intimately associated with the Word of God made flesh. The Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. The reason we are able to “start over” when we fall is because of Jesus Christ who died for man’s sin to provide us with the opportunity to renew our relationship with God through His Son.
St. Francis De Sales provides us with a clear context of how to spiritually start over:
Patience is necessary for you, that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise says the Apostle; and Our Lord himself declared; In your patience you shall possess your souls. The great happiness of man, Philothea, is thus to possess his soul; and the more perfect our patience, the more perfectly do we possess our souls. Call to mind Philothea that it was by suffering and endurance that our Lord saved us, and that it is meet that we too on our part must work our salvation by sufferings and afflictions, bearing injuries, contradictions, and annoyances with the greatest calm and gentleness.