Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Beginning Anew

by Fr. J. Ronald Knott


"Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-19


We are in a month named after the Roman god Janus, an appropriate personification of the start of a new year. Janus was pictured with two faces so that he could look ahead toward the future and back toward the past, both at the same time.

Like Janus, every year in this month named after him, we look back at the mistakes we have made in the past year, and we look forward to the improvements we hope to make in the coming year.

What is wonderful about a "new" year is the feeling that we can start all over again and begin anew. What is wonderful about our faith is that the ability to start over and begin anew is not just a feeling, but a reality.

When we look back over the sins of the past year, we know that, in God, we are forgiven and that we are given a new chance, regardless of what we have done or failed to do.

Realizing that our sins and forgiven and forgotten, we know that we can make a fresh start. We are used to people holding our mistakes against us. They remember our sins and remind us of them, maybe for years. With God, because he forgives and forgets, we can make a new beginning. God does that for us every day, but January 1 is the day we remember it most clearly.

In Scripture, it seems that God is more concerned about our learning from our sins than keeping count of them. He seems to want us to admit our mistakes, not so that we will feel bad about making them, but so we can make progress in overcoming them.

Devoid of introspection, stupid people keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again - either because they deny them or blame others for them - instead of owning them. Wise people admit their mistakes easily. They know progress accelerates when they do.

Examination of conscience and confession of sins, a basic tradition in the Christian faith has been misunderstood and even ridiculed by our culture. We hear people cynically refer to "Catholic guilt."

What they are talking about is "Catholic shame." "Guilt" says "I have made a mistake." "Shame" says "I am a mistake." If the church helps us feel "shame" because of who we are, that is bad. If the church helps us feel "guilt" because of the evil we do, that is good.

One of the best things we can do going into the New Year is to take stock of our lives and reflect on where we have been and where we need to go. With God, no matter what, we can always begin again any day of the year!

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.