With the new year right around the corner, many of us make lists of physical things we’d like to change. Losing weight and exercising more seem to top many lists. Quitting smoking or drinking less may top others. Simplifying, organizing, and reducing clutter is another popular item. These are all good things and worth striving for.
Yet, in the second reading for this week, St. Paul offers us an even better guideline for making the coming year (and all those that come after) the best that they can possibly be. The Apostle to the Gentiles tells us: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Col 2:12-14)
This is a tall order. I invite you to consider these qualities again: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love.
Compassion means to suffer with someone – to be with him in his sorrow and to seek to alleviate it as much as it within our means to do so. Who do you know that is suffering – physically, spiritually, emotionally? What can you do to help? Can you offer assistance in some way? Perhaps there is no way to actually remove the source of suffering, but can you spend time with the person? Listen to them? Pray for them?
Kindness is a general goodwill towards others. Do you wish others good things, or do you get jealous when others lives seem to be better than yours? Do you indulge in gossip? Do you treat service people with respect? What about the homeless? Do you greet others with a smile?
Humility is to see ourselves as we are before God. It is to realize that we are totally dependent on God for all the blessings and gifts we have received. It also calls us to serve others. How can you better serve those you come in contact with?
Gentleness, sometimes known as meekness, goes together with kindness and humility. It calls us to be slow to anger. It also means to care about God and others more than we care about ourselves.
Patience means to be willing to wait, whether that be something as simple as waiting in line at the grocery store without complaint, or something more difficult, such as waiting for God to come through on a long time prayer request. How can you be more patient with the difficult situations you encounter in life? How can you make good use of those times when you must wait?
Forgiveness asks us to not hold another’s wrongs against them. We all make mistakes. We want God to forgive us. So, too, must we forgive others, even when it is hard – especially when it is hard. What wrongs are you still holding on to? Who do you need to forgive?
Love means wanting whatever is best for another person, even when it hurts you – it requires us to put other’s needs before our own. How can you better love the people in your life?
As I said, St. Paul asks a great deal of us. Yet, all these qualities are interconnected. All come under the mantel of love. Making even small steps to love more will help make this coming year the best it can be. It won’t be easy, but it will bring you closer to the eternal goal of loving God and neighbor with all that you have. What goal could be more important than that?
I wish you all a very blessed New Year!
– Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur