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Looking Back . . . Looking Forward

As another year ends . . . and a new one begins

Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends the Examen as an essential part of one's daily spiritual activities.

The Ignatian Examen is usually done at the end of the day before one retires for the night. The exercise is for one to look back at the events of the day to see how God manifested His presence to him and how he reacted, to meditate on them, to be grateful for them, and to plan for the following day.

Financial and other organizations make a yearly review of their operations, looking at the strengths and weaknesses, and to develop strategies for more success or improvement the following year.

The year 2018 saw milestones, events, happenings, challenges, successes and/or failures, etc., in each of our lives. A review helps us see how we have lived the year, how God made Himself present to us, what lessons we have learned, and at what stage we are in our relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves.

As the year 2018 ends, a review may include the following areas on which one may reflect and meditate on:

Growth in Age -- Each year brings us to another milestone in our life's journey. Each year makes us older and thus closer to what is inevitable for each of us. Especially for those in their sunset years, there is a feeling that the years have passed by very quickly. Life is shorter than we once thought. The important thing, however, is that we are still alive, having the chance to continue what we still need to do, even to dream some more, or keep pursuing the dream that we always had but still needs to be fully realized. And very importantly, for one who needs it, to seek God and have a conversion of heart.

According to Holy Scriptures, "the length of our days is seventy years— or eighty if we are strong— yet their pride is but labor and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly." (Psalm 90:10) That is why each birthday is a reason for thanksgiving and hope.

Growth in Wisdom -- All the years that have gone by opened for us new vistas and horizons. Those gave us new knowledge and shaped our outlook. The encounters we have had with people -- family, friends and strangers, the knowledge we have gained from books we have read, shows we have watched, travels we have made, have given us an accumulation of information and experiences that have made us into what we are today.

Hopefully, all these have made us, not only more knowledgeable and better informed, but grow in wisdom and given us a broader perspective of what life is truly all about.

Growth in Spirituality -- In addition to knowledge and wisdom, there is also growth in one's spiritual life that we need to look at. This is the all-important relationship that we must have, and that is, with our Creator and, because of Him, with our fellow human beings, too.

God has called us to strive to be perfect. The Church calls it "the universal call to holiness." Being holy means that we are putting Christ always at the center of our lives.

In the world we live in, we find many good things that we are given to use and enjoy. But there are also many temptations that lead us away from the good. There are many joys and disappointments we experience in our relationship with others. There are also trials and sufferings, including health problems as our bodies age. But it is within this milieu of earthly existence that God wants us to grow in holiness.

Prayer Life -- Prayer provides the link between us and the God we believe in and worship, and with Whom we would like to be in union forever. How often we communicate with Him through prayer determines how close we are to Him. Do I have a prayer life? How much? We do not need to travel or use a phone to reach Him. We just need to look into our hearts. He is there. He is also in the people and things around us -- His creations that manifest his glory.

Work and Retirement -- To keep body and soul together and provide for loved ones, man must work. "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

After a number of years working to earn a living, there comes a time when one must rest his tired body and go into something else that is equally, if not more, important. Retirement means more time in one's hands but time that needs to be spent judiciously and wisely.

Service of God in the Church -- Service of God through involvement in Church ministries and organizations is expected of a Christian. Those involved in Church ministries help build the kingdom of Christ. It is also fulfilling. Are we now involved or are we still to find out where we can use our time, talent and treasure in the service of Christ in His Church?

Family -- All of us live for our families. We work for our children to give them the best in education and material things to prepare them for a good future. But our main duty is to bring them up to be faithful Christians and future citizens of heaven. It is incumbent upon parents to train their children having these in mind.

Thoughts about the New Year -- As the year is about to end, our review must lead us to gratitude to God, the Provider of all our blessings.

We also need to make resolutions that will make this coming year better.

New Year's Resolutions -- Pope Francis has recommended the following New Year's Resolutions:

- "Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”

– “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones, not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”

– “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”

– “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”

– “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”

– “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”

– “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”

– “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”

– “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

May God bless us all this New Year and always!#

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