In Western cultures, it has been 10 months since the celebration of the new year. Perhaps you made some new-year resolutions. Maybe you vowed to give up some bad habit or to take up some worthy cause. Did you stick to those promises? If so, great.
But if you didn't, you have another chance to make a new-year resolution, and to make good on the promises you resolve to keep. Because today is also the beginning of a new year! The author of the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy, saw a year - biblically speaking - as representing "space for repentance" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 598). Repenting can mean simply changing one's mind; doing better. That's an interesting way to consider a year.
Seen in this light, each January 1 to December 31 is like a red carpet rolled out before us, inviting us to tread our way constantly to a rich improvement of our lives. The same is true for the period of one Chinese New Year to the next, or one Rosh Hashana celebration to the next. Any yearlong period is abundantly ripe for repenting. And if you're like me, you may see plenty of opportunities to stop doing things you feel you ought not be doing - and, more important, to do all the good you feel you ought to be doing.
Just how good should we aspire to be? For some people, the standard to consider is the one set by Christ Jesus. The Bible shows that his goodness, reflected from God, enabled him to heal the sick, reform those prone to sin, and rise above material limitations.
Whether or not one considers oneself a Christian denominationally, we can each weigh our own life against such boundless love as Jesus lived, to gauge our own potential for changing our thoughts and actions for the better.
It's only to the degree we feel we are separated from God, from good, that we require repentance. This involves moving thought from a material standpoint of existence to a more spiritual one. Then we see that we and everyone are eternally inseparable from infinite Love. This change to God-centered thinking is not an abstract alteration of the mind; it is the coming of the same spiritual vision that animated Jesus in his healing work. Such adjustment in the perception of true identity shows us each to be His child, or idea. Invariably it demands of us an improved, practical approach to life.
True repentance grounds a person morally. It is not, however, limited to bringing about better moral behavior. Instead of being an end in itself, moral progress is the natural outcome of spiritual advancement, of understanding our actual likeness to God. A really strong resolution - on whatever day we make it - is the resolution to spiritualize our thinking. To honor God by striving to recognize in everyone only the pure and perfect creation that an all-good God would or could create. Praying to resolve things in this way makes every day, and every year, one of spiritual growth.
At one time I was steeped in a culture of cynicism, through the literature I chose to read, and also through adopting what among my peers seemed to be a fashionable tendency to sneer at the world mentally and verbally.
One day I remember I was walking home when it suddenly struck me that cynicism could not be a quality of God, of infinite Love. So, equally, it was not truly a quality of God's reflection, which I truly am. Therefore cynicism wasn't my true attitude, or anyone else's. I dropped a cynical approach to life then and there.
Repentance can come that easily and quickly. Or it can take years of struggle with a stubborn view of oneself as material and flawed. But it will come! The Bible's message is that we all are in reality the perfect image of a perfect God. Consistent attempts to see ourselves and others in this spiritual light will re-mold our thoughts and lives for the better.
But now we are delivered from
the law, that being dead wherein
we were held; that we should
serve in newness of spirit, and
not in the oldness of the letter.