January 13, 2012

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Wipe away the past and start the New Year fresh with God

Patti LambJanuary is not my favorite month. It’s cold and often dreary.

Christmas spirit has given way to the winter doldrums. And then there is that pile of bills from December’s holiday shopping to contend with.

Usually, I catch a whale of a cold in January.

I mentioned these thoughts to my husband, David, and he asked if I could possibly be any more pessimistic.

So I brainstormed until I came up with something good about January.

I do like the idea of the fresh start that the New Year brings. I suppose one redeeming thing about January is the hope of better days to come. To that end, we make lofty resolutions.

We vow to trim our waistlines, save money, spend more quality time with our families and be kinder. We make promises to do better. January, as gray as it is in Indiana, is ripe with hope. The year is new, and the slate is clean.

Speaking of clean slates, the second-graders at my parish, St. Susanna in Plainfield, soon begin preparing to receive their first reconciliation. They are excited, but they may not yet fully grasp the significance of it.

When you are 8, you’re sorry for hitting your sister and sneaking Junior Mints from the candy jar at home. Down the road, however, life gets more complicated.

Suddenly, we find ourselves full of regret and even shame. Some of the choices we made could have been better. That is when we rediscover how truly wonderful the sacrament is.

One of the most beautiful aspects of our Catholic faith is that if we tell God we are sorry for our sins, then we are forgiven. We don’t have to carry them around with us anymore. It turns out that with God, there are do-overs.

Years ago, I heard a sweet story about a little boy who claimed to converse with God. News of the boy spread, and piqued the interest of Church authorities. A high-ranking bishop asked the boy a question, to which only God would know the answer.

The bishop instructed the little boy to ask God what the worst sin that the bishop had ever committed was. If the boy came back with the answer that the bishop was thinking of, then he would know that this child did, truly, speak to God. Some time later, the boy returned to the bishop, who asked him for God’s answer to the question.

“I asked God what your worst sin was,” said the little boy. “Well, God thought and thought, and he couldn’t remember.”

I forget where I heard it, but I have always loved that story. It reminds me that God’s love and mercy are infinite.

Sometimes I mistakenly perceive that God is keeping track of my missteps and failures.

Instead, I think it’s more accurate to consider him as a parent cheering for his sons and daughters from the sidelines.

So I guess January isn’t so bad after all. It is a blank slate, a clean canvas. In addition to making resolutions, a great way to start the New Year is by going to confession. We can wipe away the past and start fresh with God. If a formal confession is not possible, perhaps we can just go to God from our hearts.

Here’s to a year of all that we hope for—the hope of being all that God has called us to be with nothing standing between us and God.

Happy fresh-start to you!

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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