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On faith: Begin again

Fr. Michael Lyons

Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Two Harbors and St. Mary’s Church, Silver Bay

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At the beginning of every year I always return to the words of the poet T.S. Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” One year ends and another begins. The urge to change whatever needs changing is always timely.

New beginnings typically take the form of new year’s resolutions. We desire to begin again by adopting a healthier lifestyle along with a daily scheduled reading of scripture and prayer. Resolutions are always well-intentioned. But human beings that we are, we fall short of our intended goals. Still, each new year the Holy Spirit prompts us to begin again. Beginnings are spiritually more important than endings.

Perhaps that is why Christmas is so popular! The entrance of Jesus into the world, His birth as the Savior of all mankind from sin was a new beginning of grace. The birth of the Son of God reassures us that by grace, everything is again possible. “Remember not the events of the past,” Isaiah says, “the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new!” God’s grace is a source of hope that can never be diminished.

Part of the problem with keeping resolutions is that we lose focus. This is why programs such as mindfulness are becoming popular. Mindfulness is defined as a state of mind is which you are calm and relaxed, living fully in the present moment and in a state of nonjudgmental acceptance. If, according to one expert at the Mayo Clinic, the human mind wanders for half to two-thirds of the day, we certainly need to develop mindfulness if we are to live less anxiously than we otherwise do.

It’s not surprising that organizations are adopting programs to sharpen employees’ focus, freeing them as much as possible from the mind’s endless static. The idea is of course that this will make them more productive and perhaps even happier. Whether you think this is a genuine path to contentment or that it is another example of new-age self-inventiveness, the practice of mindfulness is beneficial but it isn’t always easy to do. It takes practice.

For how long should you practice mindfulness? If you are new to it, try to sit for 10 to 15 minutes each day and gradually increase to 20 or 30 minutes. Eventually, you could extend it to 45 minutes or an hour. If you don’t want to sit longer, you might want to learn how to do walking meditation as a break. I have also discovered it is possible to practice mindfulness during long walks in the outdoors or while taking a break on a hiking trail, or just sitting by the lake shore.

Incidentally, I recall the daily practice of meditation in the early hours of each morning during my Seminary days. It’s a practice I’ve endeavored to maintain ever since. While I haven’t always been as successful as I would like, I have recently found the techniques of mindfulness helpful. Check the internet and remember that by God’s grace everything is now possible. Maintain focus and remain hopeful. Remember what Paul says: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” As Christians we are doubly blessed.

In his poem “Begin,” Brendan Kenneally says that “Though we live in a world that dreams of ending / that always seems about to give in / something that will not acknowledge conclusion / insists that we forever begin.” I say AMEN!