During the beginning of each new year, we are often encouraged to make resolutions. Maybe it’s to cast aside some unhealthy habit like quitting smoking, or giving up a daily trip for fast food. Maybe our resolution is to adopt a healthy habit, like eating better or resolving to make a few trips to the gym each week.
But as this article appears a few weeks into the new year, in the middle of January, we already don’t hear very much about these resolutions. Unfortunately we just don’t seem to take any of these resolutions too seriously. While we might think that these are all good ideas, we just don’t have the commitment it takes to see these things through to make them become a reality.
Taking a look back at the resolutions that we might have made at the beginning of the year we see that good intentions really aren’t enough. What is needed is commitment. Now of course within the pages of “God’s Field” we are not just speaking about what is needed for our good health, important as those things are. We also realize that spiritual resolutions are also an important part of our life as well. In this way we can say that at the beginning of a new year, we should desire that our lives are more Christ centered and that we will desire to play a more active role within the Church, the body of Christ in the world. But like any resolution, this will take commitment.
It is for this reason that we have chosen the year 2017 to be “A Year of Commitment” within the Polish National Catholic Church. This will be a year for us to focus on what things should play a central role within our lives, especially within the spiritual realm. But it will also be a chance for us to focus on the commitment that it will take to bring these things to reality, within our personal lives, within our parishes and within our entire Church.
At the beginnings of the Church as recorded within the Book of Acts, we hear Saint Peter preaching to those who would be the first converts to Christianity. He tells them to lay aside their sins, receive the Holy Spirit and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Three thousand are converted that day and Scripture goes on to tell us that, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) We see in this short writing that although the disciples had in many ways not changed their daily lives there was now a new priority. We know that they must have still gone about many of the things that they did before. They went about their work. They raised their families. They did work and cooked meals and many other things as well. But these were not the focus; this was not where their commitment lay, rather, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread [the Eucharist] and the prayers.”
These can certainly be for us also the place where our commitment can begin. The Apostles’ teachings are those things that have been handed down to us, especially within the New Testament. And of course we also know that this teaching was not entirely something new, but was centered on Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the law of God given by Moses.
Moses had reached out to the people of Israel to tell them that they had been chosen by God in a very special way. They were to be God’s people and God would be their Lord. And this agreement would be put in place through the giving of the Law. “Then Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Keep silence and hear, O Israel! This very day you have become the people of the Lord your God. Therefore obey the Lord your God, observing His commandments and His statutes that I am commanding you today.” (Deuteronomy 27:10)
But of course we also know that the people of God failed miserably in their desire to keep the Law of God. They just were not committed to it. Other things drew them away and they followed after their own hearts. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the sinless one, had come to earth to fulfill the law and set for us a way. Jesus is placed before us as the One upon Whom to cast all of our lives, the One Who now lives within us. St. Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Galatians when he tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) The focus of our commitment is now to be on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are to focus on Him as He lives in the world today, in us and in His Church, which is His Body and the place where we encounter Him.
It is with a new found commitment to Christ that we are able to change our way of living and move away from sin. St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Romans: “But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18) In our commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we now turn from being slaves to sin, that is, being in service to those things in the world that draw us away from God, or even to be self-serving, looking only to our own needs and our own comforts, to instead now becoming servants of Jesus Christ. And in serving Jesus and His way of love in the world, we then become “slaves of righteousness” as St. Paul says.
In our being servants of Jesus Christ in this way, we live out this commitment by being focused on “fellowship and the breaking of bread [the Eucharist].” It is within the Eucharist and also within the fellowship of the community that we encounter Jesus and fulfill His desire for us, to grow closer to Him in communion and grow closer to each other in community.
And of course this service, this commitment to Jesus Christ and His Holy Church is done for the betterment of all the children of God. His Church is where we can find support for our journey and help in our times of need. It is here that we are the one Body of Christ. And in this belief and this commitment we are strengthened by the Eucharist, during which we pray together and worship God together. As we say during the Contemporary Mass each Sunday before we receive communion, “Because there is one bread we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”
It is with this commitment to the Church in mind that we can also be reminded of the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (Philippians 1:21-24) If our religious life and commitment to the Church were only for ourselves then St. Paul would have easily said that it would be best for him to be united, as an individual, to Christ. But rather, we are here for each other, we are a part of the Church, and committed to it, because through the Church all of God’s people are brought together.
We can certainly see this strongly in the two commandments of Love given us by Jesus. Our Lord, when asked what the greatest commandment was, gave a short reply, but in this reply He summed up the entire Law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) To love God and love each other is then the essence and focus of our religious life. In this we remind ourselves that we are to be committed to Christ and committed to His Church.
So, as a resolution this year, rather than just think that certain actions might be a good idea within our religious life, let us rather make a commitment to Christ and His Holy Church. Let us spend some time daily in prayer, for our loved ones, for our Church and for ourselves. Let us make a commitment to attend Holy Mass on a weekly basis, knowing that at the celebration of the Eucharist we will meet our Lord and Savior in a personal way. Let us also be committed to living the message and way of Christ in our daily life, showing by our thoughts, words and actions exactly how much we love Jesus and love His people. Let us be committed to our Church that through the Church we can love each other and also work together to be witnesses to the life of Christ in the world.
In reality it takes commitment. If we give a bit of thought to it though, we should recognize that Jesus has always been very committed to us. He loves us and died on the cross for our salvation, bringing us into the fellowship of His Church. Let us be just as committed to Him.