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Confession versus new years promises

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

This time of year is for many people a time of tremendous stress. I have seen neighbours prepare for weeks for Christmas. They wrap gifts, set up trees, invite the family and cook an enormous turkey. The gifts are opened, the wrappings placed in the fireplace, the cards taken down and it is on for the new years celebration!


It is a time of expectation and of performance. It is a time for traditions and customs to be followed, even though they have no meaning or the meaning is long forgotten. It is a time when people try to imitate Christmas cards or Christmas movies where the family sings carols around a warm welcoming fire in the hearth. When that is not achieved (and it never is) and the tree is taken down and hauled to the end of the driveway, the wrappings discarded, the decorations stored and the the presents to be returned are ready, it is time for the next event which is New Years, Christmas without Christ is as empty as a department store Santa hut on December 30th!


New Years is a feast that, despite my Scottish heritage,





I never really appreciated. It seemed to me a party where people got drunk and made resolutions to do better in the new year. The resolutions never lasted beyond a week or two.


In many ways new years resolutions are like imperfect confessions to oneself. I confess that I could do better in the following areas and resolve to be a better person. How? By what means? Do I even acknowledge my failings or is it all about making a list of things that I believe will make me a better person? What does it even mean? I will go to the gym everyday!I will eat better ! I will walk the dog! I will go back to school and so on.


The problems with resolutions are that they are lacking two elements. The first is an acknowledgement that we have indeed failed. But failed who? Is it just me? Is it my family? The second element that is missing is we do not ask for forgivness. At best we make promises in the wind without a recognition of what we have done and no understanding that we need to seek forgiveness.




In the sacrament of reconciliation, I believe there is a profound truth that will assist us in knowing why all of our resolutions and anxiety are doomed to fail. In the sacrament of reconciliation we confess our failings and our sins not to ourselves but to God Himself (as the priest is in persona Christi) It is not telling it to the universe, but rather our Lord Himself in the person of the priest.


We confess our sins, our failings and are forgiven by God. We then ask for the grace not to sin and we recieve penance.


It is a tremendously powerful sacrament and one that easily explains why all of our new years promises will never work

  1. When we note we will improve who or what have we offended?

  2. Do we ask for forgiveness?

  3. Do we receive forgiveness (in this case from God Himself)

  4. Do we reeive the graces necessary to overcome our sins and faults

Of course the answer to all of this is a resounding no. When we make a vague promise to ourselves that somehow this year will be better, and we will do better, we doom ourselves to further disappointment. It is simply not in us!


This year skip the resolutions, confess your sins and shortcomings before God and ask HIM to help you.


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