Pray for the desire to live your life as Jesus has called you to.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen, please sit down. As I touched on at the start of Mass, we are still in Christmas. This is the second Sunday of Christmas. There are some places that have transferred the solemnity, the Feast of Epiphany, to today the day when the Magi arrived to see Jesus Christ.
We are keeping it here on Thursday on its proper date, and we have a high Mass in the morning and a high Mass in the evening because it’s important that we don’t cut our feasts short. We spend a long time in fast in the Church, and that is a good and right thing. It is a way of concentrating our mind on Jesus Christ. But to then short change Jesus when we come to our feasts is the same as cheating during Lent or cheating during Advent in your fast. It is important to keep both, but that doesn’t stop us, of course, turning to the New Year as big ben chimes on Friday night into Saturday morning for our New Year sitting and going right, a New Year, a new me, a fresh start. New Year’s resolutions.
And actually, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions, how you are going to live a better life. And it’s the perfect time because we are still in the middle of the Feast of Christmas.
It’s the perfect time because at Christmas, Jesus was born in each and every one of us. So during this feast, during this celebration, we are closer to Jesus than we are possibly at any other time of the year. So when we sit down and we say to ourselves, These are the things that I am going to do this year. These are the changes that I am going to make. Then we find ourselves at the point closest to Jesus because ultimately it is he that guides us.
He has guided us since the very, very beginning, and it is no different today. We sit, we look at the year ahead. And with Jesus freshly born again inside our hearts, we face the year and think, what is my New Year’s resolution going to be?
Well, I’m going to eat less. I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to love people more. I’m going to forgive all those people that I have been unable to forgive over the years. I’m going to give more to charity. I’m going to volunteer at the food bank. I’m going to go and say to Father Matthew that I want to serve at the altar.
I’m going to read the Bible every single day and before you know it, you are rather overwhelmed with New Year’s resolutions – and how many of us manage to keep them even to the end of January. Never-mind throughout the year.
So many of our New Year’s resolutions at their heart are about denying desire for something else.
So let’s take me.
I eat too much, my desire for food and for the enjoyment of company outweighs my desire to lose weight.
So if I say right, I am going to do this and nothing’s going going to get in my way. That might be achievable. And if I were to do it on my own, then, as I have proved to myself many times over, I will probably fail. And so what I’ve come to realise over the last decade or so, not just through New Year’s reservations, but through my desire to want to get to know Jesus better is that the denial of desire isn’t always the right thing. Let me explain what I mean.
Jesus wants us to live better lives, and my weight is one example. But for you, it could be something else entirely. Jesus wants us to live better lives in Him. But some of those things are really, really hard. Take another example that I had in that list.
Forgiveness. I know there are people in this congregation, and I count myself in them who have somebody in their life that they cannot forgive, who has done something to them so bad that they cannot forgive. And there are people in this congregation who have said to me, I will never forgive this person for what they’ve done to me. And I’ve said the same thing. And as I look at you, you’re nodding at me.
I stand here and I say regularly that forgiveness is the hardest thing that we are called to as Christians. So here we go. Here is the bar that I will never forgive somebody. Well, I could right now go. My New Year’s resolution is that I’m going to forgive all these people, but we know that that is too hard.
So then how do we even start to go about those things that are too hard? How do we start to shift the desire from one thing to another thing? Because desire is a strong emotion. And so if we can just nudge it from one thing to another, then with Jesus help, we’ll achieve it. This is what you do.
You want to change. You desire to change for Jesus. You don’t say I am going to forgive this person that I cannot forgive. You say I want to forgive this person, and then you spend the next twelve months working on that, on wanting to forgive this person, on wanting to be a better person in Jesus, on shifting that desire of enjoying and enjoying that I will never forgive this person and shifting the desire to wanting to forgive this person. That’s the first step wanting to do the right thing.
And it’s an important first step, because what you do then is you open your heart to the desire of living the life that Jesus has called you to. And when you open your heart to the desire of living your life as Jesus has called to, then he will flood in, and he will help you.
Our second reading from St. Paul helps us understand how that works.
Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ to be Holy and spotless and to live through love in His presence, determining that we should become His adopted sons through Jesus Christ for His own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of His Grace, his free gift to us in the beloved.
It is because Jesus wants us to live this life. It is because Jesus made us to live this life.
It is because when we give Him the opportunity to be in our hearts, that he will help us achieve these things, that that is possible.
That will explain why I Paul, having once heard about the faith, about your faith in the Lord Jesus and the love that you show towards all the Saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you.
This is the second key element in shifting to a new life in Jesus Christ. It is that you are surrounded by people who are praying for your success. If you want to change something, if you want to live a better life in Jesus life, you cannot do it alone.
You do it with Jesus in your heart and you do it surrounded by your friends who pray for you, who ask God to help you, who encourage you and support you.
And that’s what we are in this Church. A family of encouragers, a family of people who pray. When we pray for people on a Sunday, when we pray for people at daily Mass, when we pray for people, when we go to bed, we are helping them achieve those changes in their life that they are looking for. We are helping them live a life closer to Jesus Christ. It is not an act of piety. You don’t kneel at your bedside and pray because I tell you to you kneel at your bedside and pray because you are helping the person you are praying for just as much as if you stand here on a Wednesday and give somebody food from the food bank in your prayer for that person, you are helping them just as much.
And so that is your job. Pray for your friends.
May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope His call holds for you. What rich glories he has promised the Saints will inherit.
There’s the third part of change in Jesus Christ and the change that we are looking for in our lives. It is in that action of praying for other people. God sees you.
God sees your heart and in that moment he enlightens you as to what you are called to do in this world. It’s back to that theme that I so often preach. Pray and do.
I know that’s a lot to take in. There are three big elements there to take away. So take this reading from Ephesians home.
Read it. Use it as the model as you look to your next twelve months. Use it as your model to figure out what it is you are going to do to live a better life. And if something is too big, if something is too difficult, if something is so deeply ingrained in who you are that you cannot shift it in one go, then pray for the desire to want to change it. Pray for the desire to want to shift it.
Pray for the desire to live your life as Jesus has called you to.