Our New Year’s challenge and wisdom to change

HOW often have we heard from fellow Christians that this pandemic calls for repentance, for a change of heart? How often have we heard them asking us to examine our priorities, to look at what matters most in life? Many times, we would say. And we would even ask these questions to ourselves.

But it is not easy to take these questions to heart—to make radical changes in the way we think and act. We’re human beings with fleeting feelings and quickly troubled minds.

The media and our surroundings rapidly affect our moods. We’re prone to anger and impatience. We can’t let go of our biases and personal opinions. We get hooked to frustrations, disappointments, and thoughts of people’s perceptions about ourselves.

In short, we’re fragile human beings.

An eloquent preacher impresses us. A brilliant insight inspires us and moves the depth of some truth, but changing one’s habits, addictions, indulgences, fears, and anger is challenging.

What can we do to make real changes about ourselves?

First, we need to recognize any negative emotions and rumble with them to see their origins.  We should see what other feelings surface beneath a dominant emotion. If we’re angry, we need to be aware that we are also frustrated, disturbed, conflicted, etc.

Then, let’s bring these emotions into prayer. Let’s ask Jesus to appease us and ground us to his will. Let’s stay in His quiet presence for a few minutes.

Let’s remember that Jesus became human like us. In the Gospel this Sunday, by having John the Baptist baptize him with the baptism of repentance, he entered into humanity’s sinfulness, bathing and immersing himself into the murky water of Jordan River.

Indeed, we have to recognize our brokenness as human beings, but be hopeful in Jesus.

It’s the Spirit of Jesus who would help us come out from the murky water of humanity and commit ourselves to constant change or renewal of life.

Second, let’s be aware that another habit overcomes a habit. In other words, change requires discipline and perseverance. A bad habit does not disappear instantly. But to change it, one needs to cultivate a good one. For example, instead of getting angry, become more grateful. Instead of condemning or judging someone, empathize with this person in his or her situation.

Let’s recall the great wisdom of the Prayer of St. Francis: “Lord, make me the channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon…O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…”

Third, we have to find someone with whom we can share one’s distress and bare one’s soul, someone who has the right to hear our story.  In this way, we could receive some counsel and needed support.

Finally, we must let go and let God be in control. In spirituality, we call this the spirit of surrender to God and His mysterious designs. As Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacraments summoned a fellow nun:

“You must not see yourself as being alone. On the contrary, now you are most accompanied than ever before because Our Lord is always with those who suffer. Talk to Him. Trust Him with all your sufferings. Tell Him about your doubts and abandon yourself entirely into His Hands.”

May this New Year fill us with the courage and wisdom to change our ways to become the best version of ourselves with God’s help. A blessed New Year to all!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

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