From left, the Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun, Rabbi Anchelle Perl...

From left, the Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun, Rabbi Anchelle Perl and the Rev. Ned Wight. Credit: Catholic Faith Network; Jeremy Bales; Alex M. Wolff

As 2018 comes to a close, Americans are resolving to exercise more, eat healthier and save money in the New Year, according to a national poll. Nevertheless, attending religious services or praying more don’t make the top five survey responses. This week’s clergy suggest ways to include religion in resolutions.

The Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun

President and CEO, Catholic Faith Network, Diocese of Rockville Centre

Soon, I will be waiting on line for an elliptical machine at the gym. By mid-February the gym will be back to normal and all those resolutions will be a memory. 

The first reading from the Old Testament Book of Numbers, proclaimed in every Catholic Church throughout the world on New Year’s Day, offers hope: “The Lord bless you and keep you! / The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! / The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” Could this be the resolution that we can keep? Could this spiritual wish from Moses be our goal in 2019? Can we better recognize the blessings in our lives; can we keep each other closer, seeing each other as part of something bigger? Can the roads we travel become highways of kindness versus wars to be won? Can our resolution be to see the shining face of God in the midst of life’s difficulties? Can we resolve to live more kindly and live in peace with one another and with ourselves?

Let’s think about that while waiting to get on the exercise machines. For after the workouts fade, God resolves to be ever faithful to us; blessing us and keeping us, and giving us peace that with our resolve could change the world. Now that’s a resolution!

Rabbi Anchelle Perl

Director, Chabad of Mineola

New Year's resolutions are an accepted part of society. These resolutions are made by all sorts of people, regardless of their values or religion. But as we know all too well, many resolutions don't last very long. So what is the secret to maintaining our resolve in the long term? It’s faith. Faith in oneself and most importantly faith in God.

While the human being has many natural needs and desires, both physical and emotional, there is an inner faith that drives a feeling of mission and accomplishment, thus the desire for the next year to be more fulfilling than the past one. It’s wrong to claim that faith is a sign of weakness, something to resort to when all else fails. Faith provides an ongoing reservoir of selfless transcendence to want to make those resolutions last. This is what distinguishes the human from the animal. Whereas the animal is primarily concerned with its coarse and base earthly needs and desires, the faith-inspired human being is constantly seeking to ascend yet higher, realizing that as much as he or she may have accomplished, there is always plenty of room for improvement. So a word of caution. A resolution predicated solely on satisfying one's own needs will be broken as soon as the person feels another, more pressing need or desire. In Judaism when one's resolution is strengthened by faith, the underlying criteria for your New Year’s resolution is the realization that our purpose on this world is to serve our Creator to the best of our abilities.

The Rev. Ned Wight

Interim Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock

Making resolutions for the New Year is, in itself, an act of faith. It is also an act of imagination. It is an affirmation that change is possible — and that our commitment to making a change has the power to help make it happen.

Unitarian Universalists embrace seven aspirational principles that govern our individual and communal lives. We’re constantly aware of specific areas in which we need — and want — to do better. For example, our second principle lifts up “justice, equity and compassion in human relations” — yet we know we fall short in all three realms — that we can and should resolve to treat others more fairly and with deeper compassion. Our Seventh Principle exhorts us to show “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” In this time of global climate crisis, we know that we should resolve to take action to reduce our carbon footprint and join others in advocating fundamental changes to the way we steward resources.

Our Unitarian Universalist faith encourages us to aim high, to strive to live in closer accord with our principles, and to trust that the spirit that animates these principles will support our resolution.

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