“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; In these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.” - Heb. 1:1-2
Happy New Year...again! This is the third “new year” Catholics have celebrated in the last five weeks, with varying degrees of fanfare: the start of the liturgical year at the start of Advent, the start of the Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, and now the calendar year. Though for those of us in the dioceses of Southern California, New Year’s day is not a Holy Day of Obligation, the ideas of resolutions and obligations that resonated for me as I reflected on today’s feast.
I often find myself associating obligation with burden, and the things that pile up that I have to do, but when I take the time to see the bigger picture, I’m reminded of the grace of my “obligations.” The word itself comes from the same Latin root as the word religion. A root that means “to bind.” Catholic marriage preparation often focuses on the idea that the Grace of the Sacrament is not limited to the moment that vows are exchanged, but flows through each day’s choice to be faithful - in the full sense of the word - to those vows. So, today has me reflecting on those things that bind me up, and support me through the day. The obligations of my life, like Jen, our son, and our daughter on the way, are not burdens, but ballast, that keep me rooted and steady in many ways.
I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions for a number of years. I saw a figure that almost 40% of resolutions are busted by the end of January. In my life, that figure seems fair. This year, I’m going to make a New Year’s day resolution. I’m going to pray the examen today. At the end, I intend to resolve to do it again tomorrow, but I’ll have to make that choice again then. The word obligation is, like the word sacrament, connected to the idea of making a pledge or promise. Maybe I can get around the negative connotations of obligation by thinking of Sundays and the handful of other feasts we are expected to be at mass as Holy Days of Promise.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
What is one thing I can choose today to be faithful to the people I’m bound to in my life? What is the blessing at the root of my most pressing “obligations”?