As followers of Jesus Christ we should be perpetual optimists, better yet: always hope-filled and trusting in God’s loving and providential care for each and every one of us. Jesus says that God knows how many hairs we have on our head and even when one hair falls and where it is. God watches over the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. Not even Solomon could boast of being arrayed in more brilliant splendor than those flowers of the field.
Therefore, upon launching into a New Year, or starting a new career, or a new vocation—in whatever way there may be a newness—let us strive to implement these various concrete proposals so that not only do we begin well, but we also end well. Many start in the long-distance marathon, but not all persevere to the end. We want to be among those who start, finish and win the well-merited prize. Here we go with the big twenty to pave our way to a successful finish!
1. PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL. In all our undertakings, initiatives, and enterprises, let us always put God in the very center of all. Our God is a jealous lover and takes second place to no person, place, or thing! Jesus says that the first and greatest of all the commands is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; then to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Lk. 10: 27)
2. REMEMBER DAILY THE WHY OF YOUR EXISTENCE! A bird is created to fly high in the sky; a fish, to swim deep in the sea. The human person’s purpose is union with God. Remember the words of Saint Ignatius in his famous Principle and Foundation: “Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God, and by means of this to save his soul.”
3. ORDER THE DISORDERED IN YOUR LIFE. In all humility, ask yourself what is the greatest disorder in your life; then try with a determined determination and the help of God’s grace to remedy the disorder. Saint Augustine expresses the fruit of a well ordered life in these words: Peace is the tranquility of order. The Holy Spirit is a God of order!
4. To overcome moral disorder that we call sin, we need GOD’S HEALING GRACE and that is channeled most abundantly through the Sacrament of Confession. Approach this Sacrament of God’s Mercy with unlimited trust. Jesus I trust in you!
5. CONTROL YOUR TONGUE. The Bible speaks very clearly, and the saints constantly remind us, that we cannot arrive at true holiness without striving to control our tongue.
6. BE SLOW TO SPEAK AND QUICK TO LISTEN. This advice is taken from the Apostle Saint James. Please open up your Bible to the Letter of Saint James, Chapter 3 and slowly meditate upon its content. It is one of the best chapters on the notorious sins of the tongue.
7. LIVE OUT THE GOLDEN RULE: DO TO OTHERS WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO TO YOU! We all want to be treated with kindness; we all want to receive compassion; we all want to receive attention; we all want to be loved. Let us do the same to others! This consoles immensely the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
8. CONTROL YOUR EYES! Now more than ever we must have a very strict and demanding custody of our senses, but most especially our eyes. The eyes are the mirror of the soul. Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount, in one of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the pure of heart; for they will see God. (Mt. 5:8)
9. LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. The very heart of the simple yet profound spirituality of Brother Lawrence was to “Live in the Presence of God.” If done, we will avoid many sins and have God as our constant companion. Saint Teresa of Avila states that one of the primary reasons for our sinning is that we become oblivious to and actually forget the presence of God.
10. GIVE THANKS TO GOD CONSTANTLY. These words we read in the writings of the Apostle Saint Paul. Jesus was dismayed after healing the ten lepers when only one returned to give Him thanks. May we never be lacking in gratitude. On the contrary, let us cultivate an attitude of gratitude! God loves a grateful soul and is ready to pour graces upon him.
11. SOCIAL CONDIMENTS: THREE CONDIMENTS TO GIVE SAVOR TO SOCIAL LIFE! Learn to express these short sentiments often: Please, thank you, and also, I am sorry. These are short but powerful expressions that render our social life much more courteous, kind, and amenable. All express humility of heart.
12. BE HUMBLE. Be quick to admit to God and even to others when you make mistakes. Remember that only God is perfect, and all of us our sinners. The Bible teaches that the just man falls seven times a day. Jesus described His heart as being both meek and HUMBLE!!!
13. DO NOT WAIT FOR TOMORROW: SAY NO TO PROCRASTINATION! God’s grace comes and goes! When the Holy Spirit is nudging us by His heavenly inspirations to carry out some initiative, do not delay and put it off until tomorrow. Life is short; eternity is forever and ever!
14. FALL? NUNC COEPI!!! This means in plain English, when you fall, get up right away! One of the best tactics and strategies of the devil is to lead us into discouragement. God loves those who after they fall return to Him with unlimited confidence. Jesus said to Saint Faustina that the worst sinners can be the greatest saints if they simply trust in Jesus’ Infinite Mercy!
15. YOUR CROSS: WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT? Recognize the cross or the crosses that God in His Divine Providence sends you. Then beg the Lord Jesus and Mary His Mother—and your Mother—to help you to patiently carry that cross. With Jesus at your side, you will be able to carry any cross. Why? Because Jesus carries almost all of the cross!
16. TEMPTED? TURN TO MARY! As soon as a temptation from the devil assaults you, lift up your mind and heart to Mary and pray fervently the Hail Mary. Mary will step on the ugly head of the serpent! All the devils in hell have a mortal fear of the mere Name of Mary!
17. BE A SIMON OF CYRENE/A GOOD SAMARITIAN ON THE HIGHWAY OF LIFE Whenever you meet some person—family member, friend, colleague, or anyone—who is passing through a deep state of desolation, try to console that person with some consoling word, gesture, smile, or prayer! This indeed is pleasing to Jesus and Mary.
18. DO THE ORDINARY WITH EXTRAORDINARY LOVE. Holiness does not depend on moving mountains, raising the dead, or even healing the blind! Jesus carried out these wonderful miracles to prove His Divinity and to manifest His compassion for the sick and suffering. In our lives, God has given most of us small, daily, sometimes even monotonous tasks. We should pray for the grace to do the ordinary things with extraordinary love! God does not fix His attention on the greatness of the action, but on the love that moves the heart’s intention!
19. DAILY MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION. In the Lord’s prayer, The Our Father, we pray, Give us this day our daily bread. A Sacramental interpretation could easily be Daily Holy Communion. Look at your week and schedule. See if you can fit daily Mass and Communion into your schedule; if not every day, at least a few days a week in addition to Sunday.
20. LOVE MARY, TALK TO MARY, ENTRUST YOURSELF TO MARY. Finally, any initiative that we undertake we should place in the hands and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Saint Louis de Montfort calls Mary The Divine Treasurer. Placing ourselves in her hands, Mary will place us in the Sacred Heart of Jesus—our true refuge in time and for all eternity! Listen to the words of Saint Louis de Montfort: Living in Mary means to love Mary with all our heart. It means to love Mary so much that we are able to live as if we truly inhabited her Immaculate Heart.