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Drawing closer to Jesus in the New Year

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At midnight Mass, our pastor described a family gathering, where someone had brought a new baby. He said the one thing about a baby is that everyone wants to go see it. A young baby will not physically go and get you; but they have this unmistakable appeal and draw that brings people in and makes them want to come close.

That is how the second person of the Trinity chose to come into the world: Not with muscle, not with cosmic compelling force, but with a simple, perennial appeal: Come see me. And then he sits and waits, and you can either accept the invitation, or not. Very much like a new baby.

Not exactly a new idea, but the older I get, the stranger it seems. But it really is that simple. He does not compel. He merely arrives and is beautiful, and then it’s your turn to draw closer and see what happens next.

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Even though the liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the secular calendar’s invitation of making a fresh start in January, and deciding to make this the year when we draw closer to the Holy Child every day. How? It is not a mystery how we can draw closer to God. He has given us the means.

Make a morning offering every single day

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Something as simple as, “Jesus, I offer this day up to you” is very good. It’s good practice to do it as soon as you are fully awake, to orient yourself toward God before you turn on your phone or have your coffee or do your first practical thing of the day. Don’t be dismayed if you forget it happened, and fall quickly into un-Godly ways soon after making this offering. Just keep returning to it faithfully, and look sincerely for the Holy Spirit to respond.

Commit to praying before you eat

Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated or showy. If you’re in public and self-conscious, you can just bow your head and do it mentally (although there’s something to be said for working through the embarrassment). But as long as food is going to be a part of our lives ever day, invite God to bless that food, and thank him for it. This is an ancient and natural way to sanctify our lives.

Consider daily Mass

Maybe you really don’t have time right now. Lots of people truly do not. But maybe you do! Maybe you can make it once a week. You’ll hear readings you don’t usually hear. It will be quieter than it usually is. You’ll start your day off (or break it up) with Jesus. Look at your schedule; maybe it’s a time in your life when you can make this work sometimes.

Consider getting to confession when you don’t have to go

Going to confession when you have a mortal sin on your soul is a very good thing to do! Go do that, as soon as you can! But don’t feel like it’s the only time to go. That’s like only going to the doctor if you have a bone sticking out, or only taking your car to the mechanic if it won’t start at all. You’re much less likely to get to that point in the first place if you go in between times, before things get that drastic. The more you go, the easier it gets. The easier it gets, the easier it is to remember that it’s Jesus on the other side of the screen.

Consider signing up for a weekly hour of adoration

I’ve written frequently about adoration, and the truth is, I still feel like I don’t “do it right.” But I do keep going, and whenever I stop, I eventually start again, so what can I say. I recommend it, because Jesus is literally there. If other people’s noises bother you, wear earphones. Just go, sit, kneel, nap, cry, growl, sulk, bask, read, be who you are, bring what you have. It’s a good place to be.

Thank God for hard things

This has been much on my mind lately. My life has not turned out as I would have wished or planned. There are many things I just can’t make sense of, and I try to avoid plugging in simple formulas like “God allowed X bad thing to happen so that Y good thing could come about” because it’s just not that clear to me. Instead, when I look at my life and feel helpless, I thank him for it. It feels unnatural and peculiar, but also strangely fitting, because I mean it as an act of trust.

When I say “God,” I mean a father who does not will anything evil, because he loves me. So whatever is happening to me can be turned toward that love, if I plug it in. It’s like my life is a struggling little trickle, and God’s life is a river, and I can dig a little channel and join into the life of the river. Saying “thank you” is a way of digging a channel. I am still small, but I am carried along. That’s the best I can explain it.

Happy New Year! Why not make it the year you get a little closer to the one who has always loved you and always will.

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