I hope all of you had a blessed holiday no matter if you were celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or some other type of joyful occasion at this time. These days are wonderful opportunities to draw us out of everyday life to remind us of a deeper presence in our lives. These days are also great opportunities to come together and enjoy the presence of one another. On the last day of 2021, we at the monastery had a day of recollection where each of us could ponder the happenings of the past year and to look forward with hope to the new year.
A couple of years ago I was fortunate to join in the celebration with our Jewish brothers and sisters for the festival of Rosh Hashanah, the day of atonement and the beginning of a new year, as it were, for them. I was totally taken by the profoundness of the liturgy with its prayers, hymns, and reflections. In the book we used was a reflection by Rabbi Richard S. Sarason which I would like to share with you. He writes:
This is the time for us to question, what we want our lives to mean. What do we want to leave behind as our legacy? It is a time to reevaluate our lives to what really matters: our ultimate values, our relationship to others, and to God, given our own limitations of time and ability.
We must honestly confront those things that we most regret about ourselves: our mortality, our failures, the hurt we have cased to others, and the harm we have done to the image of God – perhaps understood as violations against the natural world, the moral order, the sanctity of life, and our better selves. We must acknowledge our imperfections, all the while striving to transcend them. As we do this we not only look to ourselves but also to our relation to our community – be it our Benedictine community, our family community, our Church community or the larger community in which we live. We attempt to learn from it, how to correct our course on the journey of our personal and communal lives so as to become better at the art of sacred living.
The Rabbi at the Temple, Rabbi Eric Berk gave us an examination of conscience to assist us. These are some questions to ponder today.
Think about your family:
– Have I paid enough attention to them?
– Have I encouraged and helped them to be the best they could be?
Think about your workplace:
– Was I too harsh with my co-workers, my employees, my supervisor, my boss?
– Have I tried to create a harmonious and ethical work environment?
Think about your friendships:
– Whom have I slighted?
– Have I respond to those in need, and supported them enough when necessary?
Think of your community:
– Have I shared or spread gossip?
– Did I slight others – either publicly or behind their backs?
Think about your city or the world:
– Have I engaged enough with others to make the world a better place?
– Do I look upon all people as children of God?
Think about yourself:
– What am I most proud of in accomplishing this past year?
– What needs the most improvement in my life?
Think about your Church and your spiritual life:
– Have I invested enough time in my spiritual life?
– How have I shared spiritually with others?
Making New Year resolutions is way beyond me at this point. A long time ago I figured I could beat myself up (if I was so inclined, which I am not) for a lot more things than keeping New Year resolutions. Rather, I strive to make a daily examine of conscience using something like the above questions. Often, I hear God cheering me on: “Way to go, Veronica!” when I was trying to do God’s will. And sometimes God would say: “Oops, – you might want to rethink or redo that one.” Always God is a gentle God, not a dictator or tyrant, but one who nudges and urges us in the right direction. Hopefully, my experience of God’s love will encourage me to respond with love where ever I experience God in another, in nature, or in my own being. Hopefully, each examination of conscience or resolution we make will help us ultimately to shape lives that are more thoughtful and compassionate, more ethical and more reverent.
I think that is what the new year is all about. Another opportunity to bring God into our world, to so many people, in so many ways. May this new year be a true blessing to God and a blessed one for you as well!
By Sister Veronica Ryan, OSB