Since this past summer, a Scripture passage from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians has kept coming up in my prayer, and I think it presents a vision for living out 2019 with hopefulness and optimism. I've mentioned this thought to several friends, and they agreed, so I wanted to share it with you.
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison, and he wanted the Christians in Philippi to know that he saw all the hardships he was experiencing as his opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ. I think the encouragement flowing from this passage can be a great companion for us this year, especially as we struggle to overcome the difficulties which will surely come our way and strive to be the people God calls us to be.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that St. Ignatius drew great consolation from these words of St. Paul. As he recovered from the battle wounds which nearly took his life, Ignatius realized that he wanted to do more for God and devote his life to Him. Ignatius felt called to travel to the Holy Land, an arduous trip in those days.
On his way to the port of Barcelona, Ignatius wanted to get right with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. His first stop was a monastery high in the mountains. That's the monastery you see in this photo.The Benedictine monks settled on Montserrat in the ninth century, and their monastery home has been known for centuries as a place where pilgrims can come to pray. St. Ignatius, with his leg still not fully healed, climbed up this rugged mountain and stayed several days, meeting with a holy monk who offered just the spiritual help and healing Ignatius needed. Of course, there is much more to this story, but for today, we'll leave it at that.
So, as we continue to move through the first month of 2019, I think it important to ask ourselves about the goals we have set. For some, they've already given up and they are right back where they were. In fact, statistics show that most people give up on their New Year resolutions/goals within weeks.
But, what if this passage above could be our grounding for our desire to persevere with what we set out to do? I know for me, I love the idea that Christ is walking right beside me as I go through my day, to both challenge and encourage me. How much more could I accomplish if I realized Christ is right there to give me strength? Ignatius would add, I think, that whatever it is we hope to do and achieve this year, our main desire in those things must be to do more for God. If we accomplish what we set out to do, let God have the glory, not us.
If you have a list of goals for 2019, go back and pray about them. Where can you find God in them? How can God be glorified in your successful accomplishment of them? Let's spend the next week prayerfully considering these questions. The Lord who gave St. Paul strength, who gave St. Ignatius strength, is our Lord too. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Let's choose our 2019 goals wisely through prayer, and then surrender them to the Lord. Tell him that you want to achieve these goals, not for your benefit, (although you will certainly benefit, maybe in unexpected ways) but for his glory. God will give you the strength to do anything, if you ask. If we do this, I have great confidence that when we arrive at the end of 2019, we will ask ourselves how was it we had such little faith. For when the Lord gives us the strength, all things are possible.