It's important to look back on life's experiences - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

It’s important to look back on life’s experiences

One of my favorite indoor sports during this week between Christmas and Jan. 1 is to think about the year ending — what happened and what does it mean; and to reflect on the year soon to begin — what are my hopes and dreams for myself and others? What would I like to achieve?

To pray about, to reflect on such themes is, I think, a practical and fruitful way to be in touch with life, to be alert to the Holy Spirit’s quiet promptings in our hearts, to be open to new challenges and possibilities that open the door to further growth and maturity.

The "what happened" can be large-scale or private and close to the heart — the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico or the fraying of a treasured relationship. It can bring delight or cause sadness — I finally quit smoking! Or, why did I ever take that first drink?

Whether the event or experience is big or small, happy or sad, we can be sure that the Lord is with us through it all, teaching, strengthening and guiding us.

So it’s good to rest a bit these days, to review the events that impacted our lives this year and to ask, "What happened? How did it affect me? What can I learn from the experience? Is there anything I can do to draw more deeply from the good things? Or to help me to avert further pain for myself or others?"

Looking back on life’s experiences to remember, to learn, to appreciate more deeply is important. And so is the practice of thinking about the future — to dream of what might be, to focus our energies on what we would like to accomplish for the Lord, ourselves and others — once again, a wide-ranging venture.

But I do encourage you to spend some time in prayer during these days asking for the grace to be open to the Lord’s will in your life, as best you are given to know that. That kind of disposition tends to bring us to a quieter spiritual place, to unclutter our lives and help us more easily to tell the difference between what seems pressing and urgent in life and what is truly important.

We live in a complex, rapidly changing world in which we are inundated with information in which our basic values are challenged if not scorned. But it’s the only world we have, it’s the one in which by God’s grace we find our salvation. Our perduring consolation is the gift of the Holy Spirit who illumines, strengthens and guides us on our pilgrim way.

That gift and your company make me confident that God will bless us in rich and wonderful ways in 2011. May we continue to learn, to love and to serve in the Spirit of the Risen Christ.

Happy New Year.

Peace to all.

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