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In the world of Kindle, Nook, iPads and Internet, the typical book is becoming an artifact. It’s a pity, because a book is a very powerful icon of human life.

Our lives are like a book. A book has a visible beginning and end. It has perceptible chapters. One ends and the other begins. So too do our earthly lives. They begin at conception and end at death. Each year is a chapter. One ends and one begins.

A good writer attempts to keep the story moving, to inspire the reader to go on to the next chapter. To do so, the writer works hard to keep our attention focused. He has a thread that runs through the book, often referred to as a plot. There is always a protagonist and an antagonist, not necessarily human, but there are conflicting forces. It’s tension that keeps the reader’s interest. (It’s funny, because we live in a society where we’re all dying of heart conditions, but we thrive on tension … go figure.)

New Year’s Day is not just another year out and a new one in. It’s a point of transition in our history. It’s also an opportunity to tighten up the plot to give pleasure to the reader. To do so, we have to look back at the chapter that is closing and carefully lay out the next chapter. Like any good piece of literature, we have to make adjustments for the unexpected along the way.

But like a good writer, we should never begin a new year without a plan. Such an action is reckless. It’s a sin against the God who created time for our benefit, not his. God does not live in time and space. Our lives must be a book that is pleasing to God. Each chapter or year should represent an attempt to outshine the previous one. Otherwise, we’re wasting the gift of time.

Here are some questions to help us examine our previous chapter and plan the next one, especially taking advantage of this Year of Mercy:

  • Did I make proper use of the sacraments this past year?How much time did I give to prayer?
  • Did I forgive and ask for forgiveness?
  • What about the things that I own and the money that I make? Did I use it wisely?
  • Did I make proper distinctions between what my family and I need and what my family and I want?
  • Were my business dealings honest and were my business decisions just and fair to those who are weaker than I am?
  • Did I cave to pressure rather than stand up for the voiceless?
  • What about the Church, am I faithful to her teachings or is being Catholic just a family tradition?
  • If I’m a parent, did I take seriously my responsibility for my children’s souls or did I give them passes on Mass and religious education?
  • Let’s go back to material things. How much of an effort did I make to teach my children that all created things are not for them and that everything that God gives us is for the benefit of others as well as our own? Or did I fulfill their every desire, reinforcing their sense of entitlement?
  • Do I manage my relationships out of love or out of guilt?
  • Are my relationships based on charity and concern for the other and the satisfaction of the other person’s company, or are they purely utilitarian?
  • Do I knowingly let others use me and my gifts for their selfish purpose?
  • Have I stood up to challenge immorality in our society, in my family, in my workplace, or did I cave because “I have a family to think about?” Since when does family take precedence over truth?
  • Am I aware of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell?
  • What would God say about my book, if I died tonight?

If this last chapter has not been as good as we would like it to be, God is still giving us time to begin a better chapter. Let us make good use of the precious gift of time.

Comments from readers

LUIS DURAN - 01/15/2016 04:22 PM
Very well written and to the Point Brother Jay! What a blessing to have you make all of us meditate about our book and life. I celebrate your life and your contributions to the kingdom of God. Br. Luis

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