Packing for the New Year

What to bring - What to leave behind


Travel light.

My apostolate (speaking at parish missions, retreats, pilgrimages, and Great Adventure seminars) means I spend a lot of time on the road. As a “road warrior,” I travel between 150-180 days a year. All this time on the road offers me a helpful spiritual analogy for the journey of faith. Like any trip or pilgrimage we prepare for, we have to ask ourselves spiritually, “What do we pack and what do we leave behind?”
Here’s what we don’t need to carry into 2017: the burden of sin. Make a good and thorough confession a part of your engagement of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. There’s nothing better for lightening your step in the new year. As St. Paul puts it, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1b).

(By the way, Jeff Cavins’ study Walking Towards Eternity: Engaging the Struggles of Your Heart, helped me personally leave behind some other baggage, like greed, envy, fear and shame.)

Dressing for the trip

OK, that’s what we unload. What do we pack in our spiritual luggage? Once again, I turn to St. Paul (an experienced traveler himself) for some recommendations. Like other travel experts, he suggests “layering” with several items.

First and foremost, “Put on Christ” (Romans 13:14). Then, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness (teachability), patience, and forgiveness (Col 3:11-13). Imagine how different our life and relationships would be in 2017 if we dressed ourselves every morning like that! At World Youth Day 2013 in Rio, Pope Francis proposed three related garments:

“If we want it to have real meaning and fulfillment…

  • ’Put on faith’, and your life will take on a new flavor, it will have a compass to show you the way;
  • ‘Put on hope’ and every one of your days will be enlightened and your horizon will no longer be dark, but luminous;
  • ‘Put on love’, and your life will be like a house built on rock.”

Let 2017 be the year you grow spiritually and in the embrace and practice of God’s mercy. Seek first the kingdom of God, and you’ll be surprised by how many other things heaven provides (Matt 6:33).

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