With February fast approaching, we are currently in crunch time for New Year’s Resolutions. According to research, the number of people keeping their resolutions is shrinking week by week. By the end of the first week in January it is estimated that about 25% have already given up. By the start of February nearly 40% will given up and come the middle of the year more than half will have abandoned their goals. Apparently, only 8 percent of those who make resolutions are successful in achieving the goal they had set for themselves. With such a small success rate perhaps it is little wonder that many of us don’t even bother making a resolution at all. Truth be told, we are pretty bad at keeping our promises (let alone our resolutions) and that’s largely because we are weak and feeble creatures. Who of us can promise that 2017 will not have any personal failure and disappointment in it?
The Prophet Isaiah rightly describes humanity like this: “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” We are all like sheep – easily distracted, hugely vulnerable and needing someone who will care and provide for us in our weakness.
Fortunately, we have such a person. Someone who not only cares for us but who understands and welcomes us despite our weakness. Here is a story that Jesus told to make just that point:
"The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:1-7).
That final line is the crucial one. There is joy in heaven when sinners repent. God is pleased when we acknowledge our failings, our shortcomings, our sin and turn to Him in repentance. Rather than merely feeling bad over failed resolutions or another broken promise or for losing one’s temper (or whatever other sin), why not make heaven happy? Be the person who acknowledges their sin, who repents quickly and who brings God delight by trusting Him for the forgiveness that He has promised to all who trust Jesus.
Parish newsletter article for the 4th week in Epiphany (with thanks to SJ)