Here is the resolution to end all resolutions. The theory is simple. We’re all weak, so even if we do manage to keep an odd resolution here and there throughout our lives we will never manage to keep them all, never mind conquer the sins that continually topple us. So make just one resolution, and that is to turn and open yourself to receive ‘Love Unlimited’ each day, and then your life, and the life of your family will be irrevocably changed for the better. The reason is simply this: – All things are possible with love that are quite impossible without it. So – here is the principle – don’t give up anything you like or enjoy unless it prevents you from giving quality space and time each day for God in prayer. There’s nothing more important than resolving to surcharge your own limited love with ‘Love Unlimited’. Prayer is but the traditional word used to describe how we go about doing this.

I was talking to a friend of mine last week about sport, and he was saying that now middle age is on the horizon he is finding it more and more difficult to play with anything like the success he used to have. He told me he had to practise what he calls ‘energy management’. In other words he’s only got a limited amount of energy these days, so he has to use what little energy he has to best advantage. So he freewheels whenever he can and uses what energy he has to maximum effect at crucial moments of the game.

It’s the same with us when it comes to the spiritual life. We are all weak and only have a limited amount of energy at our disposal. So instead of dissipating it trying to do everything and ending up doing nothing, we need to practise ‘energy management’. In other words use what little energy we have to maximum effect. This means trying to organise our daily lives so that we have regular times of access to the most powerful energy available to us. As this supernatural energy or Love begins to surcharge our own we will be capable of doing what is quite impossible without it. Jesus himself did exactly the same because he recognised that in freely choosing to enter into our weak human nature, he needed the help and strength that only his father could give. He realised that he needed to structure his own life in such a way that he could continually have access to the help and strength that he needed from his father. That’s why he regularly went to the temple and to the synagogue with his disciples, and that’s why he often went alone for more prolonged personal prayer into lonely places. However in addition to all this, he needed daily personal prayer too, as we do.

It was the custom of orthodox Jews at that period to pray five times a day as Muslims do today. Now Jesus criticised his own contemporaries for the way they made such an exhibition of themselves at these prescribed times, ostentatiously praying in public to impress the ‘plebs’ with their piety. He didn’t criticise them for doing what he would certainly have done himself, but for the way that they did it. When you pray he insisted, “Go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you”. Now we need to do the same if we are going to maintain any momentum in our spiritual journey.

When lifestyles and work-patterns changed in subsequent centuries, Christians no longer found it possible to stick to the prescribed times that Jesus would have used with his disciples, except in religious orders where the practice is continued to this day. That is why for laypeople the practice of morning and evening prayer began to take its place, but sadly in recent years this seems to be disappearing.

It’s no good saying we simply don’t have the time, because it’s rarely true. A recent survey for the BBC discovered that an average person watches television for over 30 hours a week. So surely we could give up a couple of hours here and there for the only salt that will give savour to our lives and give meaning to what can so easily be meaningless without it.

I went into our local ‘fruit and veg shop’ recently to pick up a lettuce that I forgot to buy at the supermarket, and came out with much more than I bargained for. I made some reference to a television programme that I thought the young woman who served me would have seen the previous evening only to be told she didn’t have a television. It seems that a trip to India with her husband had converted them both to Buddhism. She and her husband spend their evenings reading, meditating and listening to ‘contemplative music’ and they get up at five thirty every morning to do the same. I was terribly impressed especially when she told me she’d just returned from a ten-day silent retreat at a Buddhist Centre near Hereford.

If only we took the practice of what we believe as seriously as she does! It made me rethink the structures in my own life that had been looking a little wobbly at the knees of late, and learn from a woman half my age. Time simply must be programmed into our daily lives if we are to follow Jesus’ example seriously. If he needed daily access to his father to nurture and sustain his spiritual life, how much more do we? This is the first lesson that all the saints learnt from Jesus, but we get it all mixed up because we read the story of their lives backwards, and so totally misunderstand the principles of the spiritual life that made them what they finally became.

What I mean is this. We read about their unrelenting selflessness, their heroic virtue and their feats of super-human asceticism, and we wrongly believe that we can only become like them by imitating what they did. This is of course a recipe for disaster that has destroyed the youthful idealism of many a would-be saint. Saints become saints not by performing heroic virtues, but by first opening themselves as Jesus did to the only Love that will give them the power to perform heroic virtues. If we only try to copy what are the effects of love, we are doomed to failure. We must copy the saints by realising as they did how weak they were and unable to do anything by themselves. Then we will open ourselves to receive the love that made them such loving people. In short they were the first to learn how to practise the ‘energy management’ that enabled them to manage their lives better than anyone else.

In other words we must make quality space and time in our daily lives to tap into the supreme energy which is ‘Love Unlimited’. As this Love begins to penetrate and surcharge our own weak human love, we will be able to perform the sort of heroic virtues that should characterise every one who claims to follow Jesus Christ. Then, animated by the same love that animated Jesus, the world will come to see that Jesus is not dead but alive in us and in all who choose to receive him, and so seeing, they will come to believe. Pope Francis is a perfect example for us all. He gets up early every morning to spend two hours in prayer before his day begins, and he will never accept evening engagements that would prevent him doing this. So let’s learn from him too –who is busier than he is? Instead of making long lists of resolutions then, that we will never have the energy to keep anyway, why not just make one that will eventually enable us to keep them all. Happy New Year!

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