By Effie Caldarola
By now, many people have given up their resolutions.
A couple of articles I saw in January confirmed this. In one, a local writer who exercises regularly and writes for a fitness blog reports that she dreads the gym in January. Finding a parking spot is frustrating, and the gym is so packed that you must wait in line for a machine.
But not to worry, she reports. In a few short weeks, all of those folks with good intentions slack off and the treadmills free up.
A Washington Post article explains this phenomenon in economic terms. January is money-making time for gyms, many of which lower their rates for longer-term contracts. And here’s the kicker: They count on us not showing up. The Post visited a gym that had signed up 6,000 members but had a capacity to hold 300 people at any one time.
This would be a recipe for chaos, except most of those paying customers stay home. I found those articles depressing, because I sense the feelings of failure many people must experience when January ends along with their commitment. I can identify. I’ve sometimes been on the losing end of good intentions. That’s the human condition.
Pope Francis has announced an extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy extending from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016. Ash Wednesday is right around the corner on Feb. 10. The timing of these momentous events offers great opportunities to explore what we really want to “resolve” and how we want to get there.
Did all of those folks avoiding the gym really want those great abs, or did it merely sound like a good idea at the time?
We have to know what we really desire. Pope Francis recently quoted St. John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
Maybe that’s what I really want: to love better. How to get there? I’d recommend buying a journal, a nice one in which you’ll never be tempted to write a grocery list.
Pray first and ask what God wants of you. Then write down some goals. Don’t get too specific because as you pray your way through the year, God may help you define or refine your goals.
I found myself writing down just three things. One was simply “mercy.” I want to grow in mercy. I’m starting by rereading Kerry Weber’s great little book, “Mercy in the City – How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job.” I hope that at the end of 2016, my journal will reflect my own acts of mercy.
The second thing I wrote down was “prayer.” Sometimes in January, after the mayhem of the holidays, I slide in my prayer routine. I’m recommitting.
Margaret Silf, in her book “Inner Compass,” says this about prayer: “Prayer is time taken out of the linear journey of our days, and it is also our most profound reality.”
Prayer has to come first, even though it came second on my list.
The third thing I noted was “healthy lifestyle.” This is a constant challenge for me, and I didn’t put down any specifics. I hope daily journaling will help me with specifics.
Pope Francis’ new book is titled “The Name of God Is Mercy.” It’s important to understand that God’s mercy extends to us lavishly and returns to us over and over again.
Don’t judge yourself harshly in 2016. Just keep going back to the source of mercy, again and again, and write down what you’ve learned.
Effie Caldarola writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.