As New Year’s resolutions abound, it’s important to reflect not only on what resolutions we might make, but also why we are making these resolutions. We just spent several weeks preparing for the coming of Christ. While the joy of Christmas is now upon us, we still live in a period of already/not yet. We still await Christ’s return in glory, so in a way, we are always called to prepare for his advent. Maybe this year, in addition to resolutions to exercise, eat well, be more fiscally responsible, etc., we might consider a resolution to cultivate a spirit of preparation all year long so that our hearts are ready to welcome Christ when he comes again.
How might we practically do this?
One approach for welcoming Christ is to welcome others: in caring for our neighbor, we care for Christ (see Matthew 25). I have three children under the age of 6. Given their age, I am careful about knowing our “neighbors” in an appropriate manner. I want to maintain my children’s innocence. I don’t want to bring fear into their world. Yet at the same time, I don’t want to keep them in a bubble that promotes self-centeredness. Every family is different, and there are countless ways to care for our neighbor, but here are two examples that my husband and I have attempted to implement (more or less successfully) in our efforts to form our children’s hearts and minds.
1. Washing our hands
One of my children loves to play in the sink. Playing in the water is all well and good, but wasting water instead of washing your hands does little for the earth, not to mention the water bill! In my better moments, I have taken this opportunity to ask my daughter where she thinks the water comes from. I explain that God has given us the earth with water, but that there is only so much water on the earth. God asks us to share with everyone, so when she leaves the water running, that means that someone else may not have enough water to meet their needs.
2. Giving to those in need
Every Advent, our family participates in our parish’s giving tree, intentionally choosing to support children of the same age and gender as our children. Then we shop with our children, asking their help picking out gifts. We explain that not all mommies and daddies have enough money to buy Christmas presents for their children, so we are helping. We extend this awareness of other children’s circumstances beyond the Advent and Christmas seasons through regular discussions about a child whom we support in South America. We show our children his picture and talk about helping provide food and clothing when his mommy and daddy don’t have enough money.
In both of these instances, I try to direct my children’s attention outside of themselves, toward someone else. I encourage an awareness of our neighbor, a recognition of their needs. Sometimes this happens easily, but more often than not, it requires time and energy that are hard to come by. Given the difficulty of forming my children’s awareness of others, I am also making my own New Year’s resolution. This year, I will make an extra effort to step in and not let these opportunities pass by.
Opening our hearts to our neighbor opens us up to see Christ in the world and prepare for his second coming. Let us resolve this coming year to intentionally become aware of our neighbor, to recognize others even when they aren’t in front of us—or maybe when they are the ones closest to us—and let us resolve to help our families do the same.