Outsourcing New Year’s Resolutions


I recently read Erika Marie’s enlightening post about resolutions. In it she writes, “The word ‘resolution’ comes from the Latin resolutio-/resolution, from resolvere, meaning ‘to loosen or dissolve again…’”

That beautiful explanation helped me to better understand the desire to create New Year’s resolutions in the first place. I now see that what I’m trying to do is to break away from something instead of doing something new. By emphasizing the bond that needs breaking instead of the new activity that needs to be started, the actor becomes God and not me.

Only God can break the chains of sin. And He doesn’t do it through a new organization app, paper system, or exercise. He does it in the confessional.

I perk up at this realization. Instead of working on a list of initiatives for the New Year and ignoring the gnawing of doubt that I’m, again, not going to live up to my expectations for myself, I can now instead examine what has imprisoned me and go to our omnipotent and merciful Brother in confession for help.

I can outsource the hard work of New Year’s resolutions to Jesus.

Feeling more confident already in my plans for the New Year, I take a look at what the Catechism says about the sacrament:

The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship…Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God. (1468)

“Of which the most precious is friendship with God.” How often I fall into thinking that if I could only lose five more pounds, or keep the bathrooms clean, or be better on top of my paperwork, I’d be happy. While those aren’t in contradiction with a friendship with God, they can only be the means, not the end. God wants so much more for me than smaller jeans and a clean bathtub. He wants me to be His close friend.

I read on:

This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members. (1469)

This last part is new to me. I’d learned growing up that there is no isolated sin—that a sin committed in secret also harms the body of Christ, the Church, through the communion of saints. But I never considered the positive side of this: that the sacrament of reconciliation heals not only me but also the entire Church! How beautiful! We can truly be instruments of peace on earth simply by making good confessions. The thought cheers me as I recall the gloomy headlines of the morning’s paper.

I get out a piece of paper and write Things that Need Breaking, making a note of the areas in which lack of trust in God, fear, anger, and plain temptation wreak havoc in my life. It’s a coward’s list, not a supermom’s, and certainly not an occasion for pride.

Resolutions in hand, I now know where to take them: to the confessional, where Jesus can do the heavy-lifting.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40)

Do you have plans to make confession a bigger part of your new year? How are you planning on working it into your schedule?

Copyright 2014 Meg Matenaer


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  1. This is a beautiful reflection on Confession! I *think* it ties into what I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions already this year … My focus is on prayer, and my hope is that through a closer relationship (friendship) with the Lord, the other things that I want to change or grow in will fall into place, because through my conversations with Him, He will be guiding me, rather than me trying to figure it out on my own. Regular Confession is certainly part of a fruitful, intimate relationship with the Lord! My pastor gave me a simple guideline of at the beginning of each month, go to Confession and then take an extended time with God during those first moments of cleansing grace, asking Him what He’d like to show me. I think that is very practical!

    • Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for writing. I love your focus for the New Year. I think you’re absolutely right–prayer seems like the most efficient way of figuring stuff out. Thanks for the great idea of asking God for direction right after confession–I’d like to start doing that. Thanks so much and prayers for your resolution this New Year, and I’d be so grateful for prayers for mine, too! God bless, Meg

  2. This is interesting Meg… how cool would it be if parishes did a New Year’s campaign to offer reconciliations. Thank you for a lovely reminder of what line I need to be in this week! Many of my resolutions relate to things that are “near occasions of sin” for me, things that separate me from the close relationship I desire with God. Thanks!

    • Hi, Lisa! What a great idea if parishioners were encouraged to link their New Year’s resolutions to confession. I certainly wouldn’t have made the connection without Erika Marie’s prompting. Maybe we can pray for each other that we “stay in line” in more ways than one! God bless, Meg

  3. What does it mean when almost every post I have read today talks about reconciliation? I think Someone is trying to get my attention. Great post and yes, I will be making confession a bigger part of this new year.

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