I love this time of year. It's a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. It's back to school time! I don't know if that excitement ever goes away. For instance, in a movie I've seen more than a few times, You've Got Mail, Tom Hank's character writes to his online friend, "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms" (You've Got Mail Movie Script).
At least for me, it's easier to make resolutions at this time of the year than it is on December 31st. It's probably because I imagine December 31st as the middle of the year. Hmmm....that could be one of the reasons why many people fail to keep their New Year's Resolutions...they're accustomed to making S.M.A.R.T. Goals at the beginning of the year, as their teachers taught them. (For how to make SMART goals, click here.) Maybe if people started going to the gym in late August or Early September, they'd be more likely to use their membership in February. Just a thought.
Today's Gospel is very appropriate for New (School) Year Resolutions:
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."
-Luke 14:25-33, NAB
While some parts of it can sound harsh, especially the word "hate", the meaning of the Gospel passage is for us surrender everything to follow Christ. We are not to allow anything to control us, whether it is money, unhealthy relationships, or a whole bunch of other things. God wants us to be FREE, and it is by surrendering to God that we can be truly free and happy.
We can set goals for ourselves to grow in our faith in God, and also remove things in our life that are causing us the most stress, particularly through SMART Goals (S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Attainable, R = Realistic, T = Timely). I think that Jesus could have been talking about SMART goals in the second part of the Gospel. (Vague Goal: Construct a Tower. SMART Goal: Sit down and calculate the cost [before the 24th of this month].)
It is important to be aware that anything new takes more time to do. If you want to pray the rosary daily, be aware that it will take longer to do it at first if you are learning the prayers and about the mysteries. Another option is to buy a CD, audiotape or download an MP3 of the rosary that includes meditations. Make sure it contains the Luminous Mysteries for Thursdays. Pray with it on the way to work or while out for a walk/run. Eventually, you will know it and look forward to it so much that you will be able to pray it in your own quiet place.
Also, sometimes you need outside help to achieve your goal. If you want to eliminate your debt, you can register for Dave Ramsey's biblically based, tried and true program called Financial Peace University. Many classes are starting within the next couple weeks. You can find one in your area by going to this site: http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/locate-class/, or you can do the program online.
If you will be in West Michigan on September 11th, and want you and/or your family to grow in knowledge and commitment to chastity, you could have a SMART goal of having everyone ages 5 and up attend a Chastity Force Conference at Pius X Church in Grandville, Michigan. It includes age-appropriate workshops, Mass with the Pius X parish communiy, and a concert by Amanda Vernon. You can register by clicking here.
If you are a young woman discerning religious life, you can register today for a retreat by clicking on "Young Women's Discernment Retreats! (pdf)" under "Related Websites" at the upper right hand corner of this page, or you can register online at http://www.fscc-calledtobe.org/religious-vocations/register.asp
I have a few of my own goals. For example, this year, I will be taking weekly half-hour piano lessons and practicing piano at least 30 minutes everyday. I know that by doing this SMART goal, I will achieve my vague goal of learning to play the piano.
God bless you on achieving your goals!