Throughout my life, New Years’ has been a moment of promise and renewal. As we turn the calendar over, there is the promise of a blank page, an open book, a brand-new year ready to be seized and transformed into the things that dreams are made of. Looking forward to all that the New Year promises, I realize that to make things happen there needs to be a brand-new me to create this brand-new year. There needs to be a renewal of self.
So the litany of self-help promises begins… I will exercise more, I will eat healthier, I will read more, I will work on keeping control of my anger, I will… I will… I will… New Year – New Me; somehow magically on January 1st, the transformation will be complete.
When it comes to my life, I will have made a ‘great reset’.
‘Great Reset’ – this is a phrase that we’ve been hearing a lot of lately in reference to what the world will look like once we come out of the ‘pandemic’ that has gripped the globe with fear. Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about this ‘Great Reset’ except that lofty minds in lofty towers are looking to use this global crisis like a global New Year, proposing “To improve the state of the world, by starting The Great Reset initiative.” (World Economic Forum) What this ‘Great Reset’ will look like, nobody really seems to be able to give a concrete answer; kind of like my promise to exercise more, without stating the details what that exercise will look like.
The Church, in her infinite wisdom, offers us a Spiritual New Year each and every Advent. It may be late November but the Catholic Church restarts her liturgical calendar with the season of Advent in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. So used to the other calendar, many of us miss the boat on this opportunity to make some promises of spiritual renewal: I will pray more, I will get to Mass one extra day a week, I will get my Rosary off the rear-view mirror, I will… I will… I will…
Advent actually offers us the opportunity for a ‘Great Spiritual Reset’.
You see, Advent is a penitential season. As the world gears up for secular Christmas with office parties, family get-togethers and gift giving (although somewhat muted in 2020); the Church reminds us that Christ is coming because of our brokenness and our need for spiritual renewal. When we look at the readings that the Church calls us to contemplate through Advent, it’s not all gold, frankincense and myrrh (those will come after, at the Epiphany); but it’s a call to self-contemplation and repentance. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer, Advent is a time for repentance, which will lead to a desire to change, a desire which will allow one to be transformed by Christ.
Where can we turn to for this ‘Great Spiritual Reset’?
Christ Himself offers us access to this ‘Great Spiritual Reset’ through the sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession, or Penance). Time and again in the Gospels, Christ allowed for this ‘Great Spiritual Reset’ for a penitent with words similar to: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has made you well. Get up, go, and sin no more.”
We are also offered this ‘Great Spiritual Reset’ in the sacrament of Reconciliation when we can come to a time of repentance (examination of conscience); a desire to change (confession); and be transformed by Christ (absolution). It is through the grace of this sacrament, and through the absolution of the ordained ministry of the priest that Christ says to us: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has made you well. Get up, go, and sin no more.”
In this penitential season of Advent, take the time for this ‘Great Spiritual Reset’ to improve the state of the world by improving the state of your soul.