See, therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. EPHES. v. 15, 16.
I. As a traveller who has climbed to some lofty eminence, looks back upon the country through which he has passed, and tracing upon the plain below the dusty road along which he toiled so painfully, follows its winding course till it becomes a mere thread in the far distance, so on this, the last day of the year, do we also pause for a few moments to glance at it once again before it dies away and becomes a thing of the past. Yet a few short hours, and the year will have rolled by, like the waters of a rapid river, into the ocean of eternity. As we reflect upon the days and the months which were compressed within its limits, they seem but as yesterday. Such also will our whole life appear to us when we contemplate it from the brink of the grave, even though it should have gone beyond the limits marked out as the
earthly span of mortal men.
During the course of this year, joys and sorrows have come to gladden or to depress us. They have been like the sunshine and the storm of the material world. One day a murky fog enveloped us, and on the next the gloom lifted a little, and gave us a glimpse of the azure sky. Perhaps we have suffered in mind or in body, and the Cross, instead of chastening, made us more fretful and impatient. Then, again, there were times during the year when the option of good, or of evil, of life or of death, offered itself to us, and we may have stretched forth our hands to pluck forbidden fruit, and have greedily swallowed the tempting bait. Nay, more than this, not content with eating of the poisoned fruit, we may have persuaded others also to partake of it, and thus have involved them in our own destruction.
All these things have been, but now they are past and gone, together with the thoughts which flashed through our minds, the desires which grew out of these thoughts, and the actions which were begotten of both. They are past, indeed, but not one of them is forgotten, for an ever-wakeful eye has watched and marked them all. In God's great book they are recorded, and when the river of time shall have ceased to flow for us, that book will be opened, and these things will be brought to judgment against us.
II. If careful note has been taken by God s recording Angel of all that you have done during the past year, it is your interest to examine into your heart, and to see what charges he may have against you, in order that you may be able to answer them. For this purpose call to mind the reasons or motives for which God gave you the year which will so soon have passed away. He bestowed it upon you as a period of mercy, during which you were to prepare your self for heaven, and by your conduct to prove that you deserve the reward destined for you. Certain talents were committed to your keeping, to be so employed by you as to increase their value, in order that God, seeing your fidelity and trustworthiness in small matters, may set you over those which are greater and more important.
These talents are the various faculties and powers of your body and of your soul. God intended your soul to rule your body, and to keep its animal instincts in subjection to His laws by sternly refusing to the sensual appetite every unlawful gratification for which it craves. Hence the soul must treat the body much in the same way as that in which a rider treats a horse which has not been broken in. He puts a bit into its mouth to restrain its impetuosity, and applies a spur to its sides to urge it forward when it would wish to be at rest. But, in order that the soul may be able to effect this, it must first bring itself into subjection to God.
Its anger must be repressed, its pride humbled, its vanity trampled in the dust. When this has been accomplished, the soul becomes complete master of the body, and is able to rule it like an absolute monarch, whose slightest wish cannot be gainsaid.
Again, in your own particular case, God gave the year to you that you might develop your intellectual faculties, by diligent application to those studies which will mature the
powers of your soul, and that you might learn discipline by the observance of Rule, by silence, by submission to authority, and by humble reverence for Superiors. On all these points there is room for much serious reflection, and the few remaining moments at your disposal, before the year is gone for ever, will be profitably employed in examining yourself, to see in what way you have corresponded with His wishes.
III. When you have impressed upon your mind the purpose for which God gave the year to you, in the next place, examine seriously whether you have used it for the ends which He intended. You had a work to accomplish, the outlines of which we have just sketched for you. How has it been done? Has it even been begun? Alas! very many utterly neglect it, and we must acknowledge with sorrow that the number of people who do so is not by any means small. They do not take any pains to bring their animal nature into subjection to the spirit, and to submit the spirit to God. Some of them will not endure the slightest word of contradiction, but fly into a passion and lose all self-control. Others, through a cowardly fear of men, are neither truthful nor straightforward. Others set up self as an idol, and most devoutly fall down and worship it. Others are disobedient to Superiors ; they refuse to comply with their most reasonable wishes, and break through their most positive commands. Others are eaten up with pride and vanity, which, like canker-worms, consume the very heart of all their good works.
If, upon examination, you discover that during the past year you have not taken any pains to curb your temper, to love truth, to subdue self, to obey cheerfully, to repress pride, to labour conscientiously at the work of your intellectual development, the work for which God gave you the year has not been done. But even now there is time. The year has not quite gone. Do not allow its few remaining hours to pass by without making your peace with God. Go to Him in all humility; cast yourself upon your knees before Him; be heartily sorry for the misspent past; blot out, by tears of sincere repentance, the handwriting of sin which the recording Angel has set down against you, and promise God to make a better use of the year which is about to begin its course on the morrow.
Lectures for Boys, Volume I, 1896
We pray that you will live in such a way that the Good God will always constantly Bless you while He keeps you from all sin. May Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph obtain for you every grace you need in the coming New Year!