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I firmly resolve...

by Cami Mann

I am making my 2016 New Year’s resolutions. It’s a new year and another chance for a new me: a thinner me, a wealthier me, a smarter me, a more adventurous me. And the list goes on and on.

Maybe this year will be my year. I firmly resolve to keep my resolutions.

But, sad to say, like 73 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, I never really succeed at keeping them.

I’ve come to realize that the issue is not the resolutions, but how we approach them – as if the power to achieve our goals resides solely within ourselves. That just isn’t the case. If it were, why would we need New Year’s resolutions?

Ultimately, the power to satiate our deepest longings resides in another resolution – right around the corner on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10: the Lenten fast. Aside from the designated days of Lent that are communal days of fasting and abstaining, Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent, we undertake a personal fast as well. Our personal Lenten fast is intended to draw us deeper into our relationship with God by being attentive to that which creates obstacles for doing so.

Both the New Year’s resolution and the Lenten fast are about making life changes: overcoming
inadequacies to craft a better version of ourselves. However, there is a distinct difference between the two. The New Year’s resolution is a self-centered action. We decide what we desire and then rely on our power to make it happen. The Lenten fast is God-centered and relies on God’s grace, mercy and assistance. The Lenten fast requires that we fast from ourselves, our needs and our desires, so that in our discomfort we turn to God for consolation, mercy and strength.

God’s design for our lives is beyond what we can imagine or create on our own. Psalm 139:13-14 states, “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.” The Lenten fast gives us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God by being attentive to what hinders that relationship. We have the opportunity to firmly resolve to doing something that aligns with God’s will for our lives and has eternal ramifications.

As the psalmist reminds us, God knows us better than we know ourselves. With this in mind, the Lenten fast requires prayer, so that, through God’s grace, we can discern what needs to be tended to. Prep-aration for the Lenten fast in this manner can reveal to us what material items, character flaws or vices impede us from becoming who God has created us to be.

This posture of prayer and reflection is not to condemn us, but to bring us renewed life in Christ. John 3:17 states, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

The Lenten fast affords us the opportunity to surrender our willfulness and to enter into a deeper relationship with God. We face what truly needs to be resolved in our lives. It can foster humility, compassion and mercy. It deepens our experience of Lent.

A line in the Act of Contrition (modern version) can serve as a reminder when we feel overwhelmed or just too busy and lose sight of our Lenten fast: “I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”

I know it takes work, but my Lenten fast is one resolution in which I can succeed. After all, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26)

Cami Mann is an associate spiritual director and freelance writer. She can be contacted at cmann1897@gmail.com.

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