In recent days, my social media feeds have been awash with friends’ New Year’s resolutions and reflections on the year gone by. Tradition dictates that January 1st is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean, kick bad habits, get back in the saddle and prepare for whatever wild ride the next year has in store (if my resolution were to use more clichés this year, I’m off to a great start). This is the week when people write down their ambitions and receive an extra burst of motivation to do things they’ve always wanted to do.
If you walk into any fitness facility today, you’ll witness a number of resolutions playing out as people renew their commitment to physical health. In January, Lycra-wearing gym frequenters make room for their less fit friends, clad in sweat pants and cotton T-shirts.
The gym in the month of January can be an interesting analogy for our Church.
Imagine someone who is really out of shape, looking to improve their health this year. “I can’t go to the gym,” they say. “I’m in terrible shape and I own no Lycra. I wouldn’t fit in there.”
Similarly, those who have been away from the Church for some time might say, “I can’t go back to Mass. I’m not holy enough. I’m too much of a sinner and I don’t fit in there.”
A well-known quote, often attributed to Abigail "Dear Abby" Van Buren, addresses this attitude: “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” Just like the gym is not intended to be a place where top-notch athletes parade their already-honed skills, the Church is not a place where perfect people go to hang out with their similarly sinless friends. Much like physical fitness, spiritual health is an ongoing journey requiring constant work through active participation in prayer, the sacraments and community.
Those of you debating if you should dig a pair of sweat pants out of the closet and make your fitness goals come to fruition: the gym is waiting to welcome you back with open arms. It’s reflected in the membership specials offered to newcomers at this time of year.
In contrast, the Church offers an unbeatable membership special that is open to all, runs year-round and never expires: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus has freely extended the invitation; it’s up to us to accept and open the door of our hearts to receive His love.
New Year’s resolutions also point to the innate desire of the human heart to achieve betterment. It’s in our nature to want to be the best version of ourselves. That’s why the Church, as a proponent of virtue, is such a perfect home for those resolving to grow.
In our walk as Christians, we will inevitably stumble. The good news is that God is all-loving, forgiving, and ready to encourage us in our resolutions, no matter what the time of year.
As we enter into 2013 and continue in the Year of Faith, we are invited, as always, to deepen our relationship with God. No matter what the state of your “spiritual wardrobe,” you are invited to come as you are to worship in the Archdiocese of Toronto in 2013.
What a deal!
Marlena Loughheed is the Communications Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Toronto.
Photos from here and here.