New Year’s Resolutions

At this time of year, all of us may be thinking about the recent New Year’s resolutions we have made. I always enjoy seeing the number of commercials advertising weight loss and fitness programs in January. A friend recently commented to me that the gym was bursting with people at the end of the workday during the first week in January. “Give it a month, and the numbers will be back to normal,” he said.

And what about our determination to keep resolutions we may have made? Do we remember what we were resolved to do in this new year? Did we even pause to make any resolutions, since we’ve realized over the years that they often fade away after a few weeks?

As I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity to make “a fresh start” of something or change or improve something of myself, I was struck by the second reading of the Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family, which falls on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s. I think that it offers a wonderful list of resolutions that we can potentially adopt for ourselves. The reading is from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I added the numbers to each of Saint Paul’s recommendations:

1. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

2. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

3. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

4. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

5. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

6. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Col 3:12-21)

Six resolutions for the new year that are impactful to ourselves and to others; they offer us a blueprint for happiness. Of course, being fit, trim, and healthy are all good things, but they become superficial goals without these virtues that Saint Paul shares with us. So, while I am back on the treadmill and “double-downing” on my diet, I am trying to regularly pause and think about each day and how I was able to be a little bit better (or worse) at “Saint Paul’s New Year’s resolutions” that I have adopted. Wishing you all a Blessed, Happy, and Healthy New Year!

Rock and Sand

When I was young listening to or reading the story of the Nativity, I imagined it taking place in a dusty small town surrounded by sandy desert with mountainous terrain created by jutting rock. Now with Google Earth and other internet sources, I don’t have to imagine, because we can see for ourselves without traveling there how Bethlehem and its surroundings may have looked in the days leading up to the birth of Christ.

We know that Jesus masterfully used imagery that the people could understand in explaining his Good News to them. On December 7, during the first week of Advent, we heard Matthew’s Gospel about Jesus telling his disciples that not everyone will enter the kingdom of heaven. He uses the example of the person who built his house on rock and it withstood the wind and floods, but the person who built his house on sand saw it collapse and ruined when the strong winds and floods came. The reading from Isaiah on that same day includes the passage, “Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.” (Is 26:2,3)

How do we build a house on rock instead of sand? Some call it grit, others, perseverance, and still others, determination. Whatever term used, the elements that describe it are similar: the ability to learn from failure, to be resilient, to be optimistic in the face of challenge, to continue to practice, to try, and to learn something from each attempt rather than keep falling into the same traps time and time again. At Archmere, we believe that this is an important ingredient to students’ success in anything that they do.

Advent is a time for us to pause and take stock of ourselves and our actions, to be sure that we are building houses on rock that will sustain us when we have to manage through truly difficult times. Isaiah calls us to be people “that keeps faith,” with firm purpose to discern God’s will in our lives, and in so doing, to know peace. Isaiah is prophesying about the Promised Land to a Jewish nation that has been exiled from Egypt, chosen by God, and journeying in faith through the desert to an unknown destination. Isaiah’s words for us today are just as relevant as we are journeying through this life, often not knowing what choices or decisions we will have to make, and where they might lead us. All that we can do is “keep the faith.”

My wish is that our Christmas celebrations fortify our faith foundation in such a way that allows us to manage well the wind storms and floods in our lives. May you, your family, and friends know God’s peace.

Wishing you a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Autumn Prayer

It has been summer-like weather for quite a few days this autumn, until recently, when the chill in the air and the wind scattering the fallen leaves have signaled that the seasons are changing. Summer is giving way to a time when nature sheds many of its blooms, only to return with the longer, warmer days of Spring. This life cycle is a hopeful reminder to us about renewal and new life, as our school community mourns the loss of Anthony Penna ’19 and gratefully welcomes the return to school of Gabrielle ’20, his sister. Never has Archmere felt more united as a community of faith as we did in the hours, days, and weeks after the tragic accident that occurred on the morning of September 29th. Administrators, students, and parents of many other area schools were in contact with us at Archmere and with the Penna Family, offering messages of support and prayers, cards and flowers. We are truly grateful to all who have supported the Penna Family and our students and members of our school community.

We continue to have faith in God and the promise of everlasting life made real by the resurrection of Jesus. We pray in the weeks, months, and years ahead for the wisdom and strength to manage our many challenges that may be a part of our journey.

At a recent meeting that I attended, we prayed the following “Autumn Prayer” by Peter Jarret, C.S.C. I share in the same spirit of community that continues to unify and shape us.

God of all creation, you give us the gift of seasons to mark our journey through time.

The season of autumn, with its changes of colors and falling leaves reminds us that sometimes things must die and fall away for new life to arise.

Such is the message of the cross –

That through death to self we find life in all its richness.

In those moments when we experience setbacks or failures,

Help us to remember that you are with us always,

And that there is no failure or sin your love cannot heal.

Help us to trust in you and in your promise of new life.

 Amen.