As a very close friend of mine likes to point out, “why does January 1st make any difference? If you need to make a change, do it now, don’t wait to make a resolution for the New Year!” I find myself in complete agreement with her. But, if there is a date to make a resolution, I think it should be the old date that the West celebrated the New Year, March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation when it all started with Mary’s ‘yes.’ That would be a good date for us to learn how to say “yes” to the change of all changes to our lives, welcoming the living God into our very being, our bodies and our souls.
In no way can this era in history be classified as a Christian one. That being said, the postmodern Western culture that’s being tossed about on the open seas of every conflicting philosophy, desire, and disorientation still expresses the desire for conversion in the tradition of setting a New Year's resolution. No matter how far Western secularism tries to push away Christianity and its influences, it can’t deny the human yearning to make an about-face, to do away with the bad in our lives and choose the Good. We want to have a new beginning.
The place where making a resolution misses the mark is in the conversion process. The American mindset on resolutions comes, I think, from its deeply Protestant roots. “Once saved, always saved” as I’ve heard many a time from the sign-holding, fire-and-brimstone-preaching messengers on campus. At one certain point they say they “accepted Jesus into their heart” (not actually a bible verse or biblical tradition.) and now they sin no more. It’s not difficult to point out their hypocrisy, because even when someone has converted to Christ, they still sin. We are all sinners. The only time when we no longer sin is when we’ve made it to heaven for eternity. Just ask St. Peter by reading the Gospels. (Mt 16:13-20 and Mt 26:69-75)
The difference is that, in the Catholic understanding, conversion is continual. Each day we turn ourselves around to the Lord. Each day we must die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. Do we fail a lot? Yes. Do we fail every day even in some small way? Yes. Does that mean we despair of our goal to carry the cross and follow Christ? No! Our conversion policy is that we follow Christ with the cross, and when we fail, we get back on it, every moment of every day. The Catholic mindset calls us to the ideal of complete and total conversion to the Lord, but we’re realists, recognizing that for practical, every day people, it is a daily struggle. The Grace of God given through His Son, Jesus Christ, is that in that struggle, we are sanctified and perfected.