My feature essay from the January 2024 issue of Give Us This Day:
A fresh span of twelve months stretches out before us now, like a blank canvas daring us to create something new. But we know all too well that the fresh hope of a new year can often get dragged down by old habits that feel as comfortable as a well-worn sweater. This is the time when many of us get down to the business of making resolutions: pounds to shed, diets to clean up, social media to pare down. If we’re honest, the resolutions probably sound a lot like the ones we made last year. Why is that? Because surface-level changes don’t feed our souls; true transformation requires us to dive deep and work toward an inner revolution instead. That requires prayer, complete surrender, and absolute trust that what God has in store is better than anything we can conjure up on a vision board.
Even when we turn to God to help us take this monumental step, however, we often do so with a laundry list of expectations. We want transformation, but we want it on our own terms. Maybe that’s because we know we won’t expect anything too grueling of ourselves. Once we put it in God’s hands, all bets are off. The path we are meant to walk, the person we are called to be, may require a freefall into a new way of living. If you want proof of that, just look at some of the feasts we mark this month.
We begin the year celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the ultimate example of surrender and trust in the face of the seemingly impossible. From there we mark the Epiphany, showcasing the magi who came from afar trusting a star to lead them to the Messiah. Later this month we will celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul, transformed from persecutor to true believer through a blinding flash, an unlikely vision, and an even more unlikely baptism. Which is to say that nothing is unlikely or impossible once we get God involved, or, more accurately, once we open our hearts to God already in our midst just waiting to be invited and involved.
I was recently introduced to the Surrender Novena, which seems made for our journey of inner revolution: “Why do you confuse yourselves by worrying? Leave the care of your affairs to me and everything will be peaceful. I say to you in truth that every act of true, blind, complete surrender to me produces the effect that you desire and resolves all difficult situations.”
“True, blind, complete surrender.” Like Mary, like the magi, like Paul, like so many others over the course of our faith history who have shown us with their very lives that the transformation we seek cannot be found in a number on a scale or in a bank account but by a message of hope written on our hearts by the One who offers us the only real path to peace and joy. What if the only thing you need to do this year is to surrender?
From the January 2024 issue of Give Us This Day, www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2024). Used with permission.