Top Five Life & Justice Resolutions for 2013

I loved Fr. Jim Martin’s “Top 5 for 2013 — Easy Things for a Happier Year.” His recommendations would definitely be good for me, and I plan to try them.

In addition to comforting us, nurturing us, and providing happiness, our faith also challenges. So, to go with Fr. Jim’s Top Five, here are five ways I hope to let my faith challenge me in 2013.

1. Pray with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

This aphorism is often misattributed to Swiss theologian Karl Barth, but it’s a good one nevertheless. My wife gave me a subscription to the Sunday paper for Christmas, and I resolve to pray with it this year (and not just nibble on the crossword).

There are so many stories that demand a prayerful response, of course, but just as important is the moral obligation to be informed. Learning about injustice will improve my prayer and action for justice.

(The first half of the saying is important, too, since I could benefit from some more time with Scripture. Reading the Sunday readings before heading to Mass could be a good start there.)

2. Read one book about a justice issue from a perspective I don’t agree with.

Ross Douthat suggested this in his recent column, and I think it’s a great idea. It’s so much easier to just read things I already agree with. Cheers to broadening our hearts and minds as we learn about the world.

3. Buy less. When buying, buy Fair Trade when I can.

I spend too much money on stuff I don’t need. Really thinking about my spending habits will be good for my family, the environment, and my soul.

When I do need something, I resolve to buy Fair Trade items when possible, assuring those who produced whatever I’m consuming were paid justly and treated fairly. This could go for coffee, chocolate, gifts for Mom, t-shirts supporting 2012’s best college football team, and more.

4. Call an elected official twice a month.

Part of the work of justice is to encourage elected officials to pursue policies that promote the common good. A simple phone call or letter can go a long way, especially when in coordination with a national organization. The USCCB has a good action network, for instance, that alerts subscribers to key legislative efforts connected to justice issues.

I get emails from the USCCB and organizations like Bread for the World, but I usually delete them. The New Year (and new Congress) is a good opportunity to put my mouth where my mouth is.

5. Spend at least two hours a month in direct service with those on the margins of society.

These first four resolutions are fine, but they all involve addressing things in my daily life. I can pursue all of them from the comforts of my own home.

It’s just as critical for me to spend time on the margins of society, serving with those who are often abused and forgotten. It’s good to write checks and collect cans of food, but to follow the example of Jesus, I must break out of everyday routines and places and spend time with those who are living in material poverty.  The JustFaith program calls these types of service experiences “border crossings.”

One of the most powerful border crossings I’ve had was here in Camden at the New Visions Day Shelter, which also hosts the overnight Joseph’s House during the winter months. I resolve to go back this year.

How can your faith challenge you in a new way in 2013? How might God be calling you to dedicate this year to his life & justice?

This article is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.