Chance to change

EVERY New Year people make what is popularly known as “resolution” which means “to resolve once again” to do what had not been done or to avoid what should not had been done. Many think this is a useless exercise for indeed, how many have really succeeded in accomplishing their resolutions? Many failed but also many succeeded.

Failure to do what we planned to do can be discouraging but as pundits say, “try and try again until you succeed.” Of course one must learn when to stop.

Life is not a straight path. There are curves and corners; hard and soft pavements and therefore successes and failures. Such is life but God did not leave us helpless in all the travails of the human existence. As St. Paul says, God’s grace is sufficient.”

Let me share one of the best poems I have always kept in mind. This poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley reminds us that while God gave us the grace to do things the right way, we must do our share. Here are the lines:

“Black as the pit from pole to pole / I thank whatever gods may be / for my unconquerable soul. / In the fell clutch of circumstance / I have not winced nor cried aloud. / Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears / Looms but the Horror of the shade, / And yet the menace of the years / Finds and shall find me unafraid. /It matters not how strait the gate, / How charged with punishments the scroll, / I am the master of my fate, / I am the captain of my soul.”

Indeed we are our own captains and we steer the ship of our lives. But while this is true, the seas can be terribly rough with unseen shoals and we sink. When we do fall we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We can get bloodied and we either wallow in despair or we summon the strength of our “unconquerable soul” and rise again.

Sadly many realities escape the poet. Life’s circumstance can be so harsh that people are brow-beaten; some are pushed to despair as to end their lives. They see no more reason or purpose of living and modern society offers little sympathy.

And yet there is always hope if we are more open to the idea that people no matter how bad can change. They can if given the chance and even surpass themselves. Many of the leading saints of the Catholic Church were heavily weighed down by sin but they were able to overcome their failures because they were given a chance to change.

There are St. Paul, the persecutor of Christians, St. Peter who denied his Lord and St. Augustine who led a life of abandonment to the flesh – you can name others. The point is that they were given a chance to change for the better and they took the opportunity.

There are thousands of people who need a chance to take a new road but sometimes society does not want to give them that opportunity. There seems to be a mark on their foreheads and many shun them. They cannot be trusted anymore, cannot be hired and cannot even be heard. Their past continues to haunt them but the most painful is when people haunt them because of their past.

It is indeed difficult not to think of the dreadful past or wrongdoings that taint a person for life.  I don’t know whether we will be able to overcome this kneejerk response to those that transgressed the law or social norms. Prejudice after all is not new; it seems ingrained in our minds.

When we talk of New Year’s resolution perhaps one of the things we can consider is to allow those who broke the law or social standards and give them the chance to change their lives. Shall we demand the strict standards of justice?Recall what Shakespeare said through Portia in The Merchant of Venice,“if justice be thy plea, consider this that in the course of justice none of us will see salvation. We do hope and pray for mercy and that same prayer should teach us all to render the deeds of mercy” – a chance to change.

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