Greetings dear Friends:

Thank you for visiting with me today.

Let me tell you a story about making resolutions.

I had a difficult time with my junior high studies. My parents sent me away to a boarding school, believing that I would get more individual help and be more successful at my studies.

We were allowed to go home for the holidays. My parents would pick me up and return me to the boarding school. I remember the return drives to the school. I would sit alone in the back seat, in the dark, grieving my return. I was a quiet introvert. Studies were difficult. Everything was difficult. Making friends was near impossible. So I sat there in the dark, making resolutions to become better, stronger, smarter, and friendlier.

Those resolutions went on for years. Eventually, I did mature and did much better at everything.

Almost every day, I resolve to be better. Mostly that takes on a form of repentance, amendment of life, a renewed commitment to holy living.

Even apologies to my wife are a form of resolution.

By the grace of God and a stable, committed life, the resolutions are kept and do make permanent changes.
Then there are the New Year’s resolutions. That is a different matter. I still need to lose some weight.

Blessings,

Abbot

New Years’ Resolutions

by Kathleen, Marion Scholar

The history of making New Year resolutions reaches back to early Babylonians, possibly as far as 4000 years ago. Early Babylonians’ resolutions would usually involve returning borrowed farm equipment to start the year with a clean slate. The Roman tradition involved asking forgiveness from their enemies and giving gifts. The Chinese practiced rituals they believed would chase away ghosts from the past. Modern-day Americans make resolutions designed to improve personal habits, such as diet and exercise, or make better financial decisions. These resolutions are generally founded on short-term enthusiasm and are broken shortly after they are made.

The dictionary defines “resolution” as making a firm decision or commitment to do something. To “resolve” is to make up one’s mind. However, when considering these varying histories, it would seem that no one truly commits a resolve to stabilize any aspect of life.

I believe that were I to ask the Blessed Mother about her New Year’s resolutions; she would look at me quizzically. The entire concept of making one resolution this year and another one next year would be foreign to her.

Her parents, Anna and Joachim, demonstrated a lifetime of stability and commitment to God. Mary demonstrated this same commitment from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion. She did not waiver and did not need rituals designed to create a clean slate or correct a bad personal habit. Stability leads to conversion. Though Mary did not require conversion of heart to make her more submissive to God, her lifetime of stability converted her understanding of Him to be converted as the New Covenant was revealed in her Son.

The Cistercians who honestly practice stability participate in the same life benefits as did Our Lady. Stable Cistercians can and will grow in understanding of and relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And isn’t that all that matters? Everything else, whether joyful or painful, is simply temporary. Remain stable and faithful to God, the Order, your marriage, your calling, and you will grow in wisdom, joy, and holiness. May the guidance and protection of the Holy Trinity remain with you always. Amen.

Reflections

From The Joy of Spiritual Freedom p. 16

“Fasting provides an opportunity to spend more time in prayer as one abstains from some important and necessary activity. The time otherwise spent sleeping (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27)”

In ancient times food preparation took most of their daily schedule. Today we can prepare food in moments, so we are not aware of much time is being spent. Would you please keep in mind that fasting is not just doing without but doing more of something, particularly prayer?

Reflections

From Memoirs of a Divine Healer p. 13

“God was showing me the events that got me to this very place. He had directed my life. God infused all of my gifts. I knew for sure that I was to heal the sick and free those in bondage (Isaiah 61). I knew that I had been given the gift of healing. Other gifts would be revealed.”

That was a loving prayer experience. Receiving spiritual gifts comes in many wonderful and sometimes confusing ways. Usually, your understanding will come in time, not immediately. It is good to discuss these with your spiritual director.  Yes, if you are going to be close to God, you need someone to guide you through the journey. Go by yourself, and you will get lost.

Reflections

From Listen with the Ear of Your Heart p. 7

“God will not only forgive your sins, but He will also guide you back on to a better course than you could have imagined.”

A good sign that you are moving forward on your pilgrimage is that you will begin to see that you are indeed a terrible sinner. This is a good thing to recognize. Talk to God about the sins that come up as they reveal themselves. Ask for God’s forgiveness. He is willing and eager to forgive you.

Abbot Oscar Joseph
Abbot Oscar Joseph

Abbot Oscar Joseph has been a Christian Counselor and Spiritual Director to hundreds over the past thirty-five years. He has also conducted healing services throughout the East Coast of the United States. He is currently a Bishop and serves as the Abbot General of the Cistercian Order of the Holy Cross.

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