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I'd like to start off this essay with a short prayer:
Dear Lord, in your earthly ministry You talked about the importance of our being awake and alert to your presence as good stewards of your grace and blessings. In these troubling, challenging times, let me not lose sight of how much I need to hope and trust in you even when, especially when, darkness seems to surround me and my loved ones. Help me so that I may not turn away from you in worry, panic, or even fear about what may or may not be coming next. As far as you’re concerned, with your help and grace, may I stay awake to your presence, and not drift away from you!
In the season of Advent, we focused not just on Jesus’ coming to be with us as a baby in Bethlehem but also on His triumphant return to earth in His Second Coming. No one knows the day or the hour when this will happen of course, but each one of us will face Jesus on our passing from this life into the next for an eternity of incredible joy or misery depending on how we’ve responded in our lives to His graces and Divine promptings through His Spirit.
Commentators and scholars alike are quick to point out that when we think about Jesus’ Second Coming, which may or may not happen anytime soon, it is important to reflect on both our own morality and mortality, and on our need to follow Him in striving for Holiness.
While these are anecdotal, there have been numerous accounts from those who have had near death experiences of their having seen and been with our Lord. You don’t want that first direct encounter with Jesus to be your last! As we see in the Gospels, He’s perfectly capable of saying “Depart from me. I never knew you” (Matt 7:23).
At the end of the Advent and Christmas seasons, many of us made New Year’s resolutions to improve our lives to be more physically fit, through better diet and exercise or perhaps improving our relationships with others.
Although many of these “New Year New You'' efforts can fall short, often within a matter of weeks, there is one that we can adopt for our spiritual fitness, when it comes to what matters most in the grand scheme of things, especially in the difficult times in which we currently live.
In our relationship with God, we must shun the temptation to shut Him out of our lives when we feel, either out of anger or despair, that He’s not listening to us. Rather, when thinking about Christ, stay awake, not away!
There are several instances in the Gospels and in St. Paul’s letters where either our Lord or the great Apostle to the Gentiles stresses the importance of our being prepared, spiritually speaking, “awake” as it were, for Jesus' arrival after a prolonged absence, which may symbolize His Second Coming; or just in following His Will on a daily basis.
For example, we read in Mark’s Gospel (13:32-37), this warning from our Lord about what the Ignatius Study Bible captions as “The Necessity for Watchfulness”:
"But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. [Emphasis added] And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."
And then there’s this reference from St. Paul to our Lord’s Second Coming
"But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober….(Emphasis added)..since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6; 8-9)
And, of course we have Jesus’ famous advice to Peter, James, and John the night before His Passion when He was in the throes of great anguish over fallen mankind and His mission to redeem us, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel (22;44-46).
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation."
Speaking of temptation, it is all too tempting, and perhaps even quite natural, as the psalmists did in several instances, to bewail God’s seeming absence in tragic or otherwise trying times. While it has been said that God is closest to us in our pains, for many of us that can often seem hard to believe.
Catholics and other Christians have all either asked or been asked why God allows so many good people to suffer while the evil ones seemingly get away with everything.
Note that I said seemingly. In the grand scheme of eternity those most wicked among us may be said to be setting themselves up for misery forever in Hell. Contrary to much popular belief these days, Hell does exist and it’s not Heck, and no, Hitler isn’t its only inhabitant.
God’s chastisements, much like His pruning of trees Jesus spoke about in John 15:2, are designed to “wake up” the sinner as it were, that he can truly see the negative effects of living in sin and chronic if not perpetual disobedience to our Lord.
That’s why I’ve often thought of our free will as God’s wonderful gift to us that can have horrible consequences, considering our consistent tendency to abuse it in the name of some supposedly greater, ungodly, good.
Granted, it is especially difficult to see so many people suffering these days through no fault of their own, but rather from the corrupt, or even wicked behavior of others, particularly those at the highest levels of worldly power and prestige. But again, our Lord and His Blessed Mother wish us to stay closer to them in prayer at such times, not farther away.
God is real, as is Satan, the devil, the father of lies who prowls about the world, St. Peter tells us as a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). St. Paul, mentioned earlier, also had a great piece of advice for the Ephesians when he wrote to them “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph 4:26-27).
The irony now is that many of those imbued with political correctness, the “woke”, are actually asleep in what ultimately counts: the state of their souls and where they will spend eternity!
The most important thing to keep in mind here is that we are all ultimately on a pilgrimage towards either a blessed or literally godforsaken eternity and that this present life, especially now with all its many follies and foibles, is by no means all there is!
When we take God out of the picture it’s no wonder we’re experiencing all sorts of trials and tribulations these days. These include a shaky economy, as well as a distinct lack of accountability in our major governmental, corporate, and sadly, even medical institutions. Falsehoods have proliferated regarding the efficacy of various bureaucratic agency approved treatments for Covid, for example.
Our society in the US now countenances rampant shoplifting and other such lawbreaking in the name of “compassion” and “social justice” brought about in part by bail reforms that basically let criminals go free upon their arrest, (if there is even an arrest).
This is to say nothing of all the dishonesty we see in government nowadays. Indeed, throughout this country and the world at large, including tragically our church, depravity and corruption seem to be reaching a fever pitch!
Those in power trying to fight against what they call Climate Change have caused great economic dysfunction in various parts of the world as prices for existing energy sources skyrocket. More and more people both in this country and in Europe as well, have to scramble to be able to afford both food and fuel.
And let’s not forget those who wish to sexualize our children at a totally inappropriate early age and to give them the highly injurious option of being able to change their gender through surgery in the name of “gender affirming care”.
Our God-given free will is also under assault by those power hungry technocrats who want to merge us with machines, in what they call Humanity 2.0, where those in charge, through technological advances, can micromanage everything you say and do,
And on top of all that, World War III is lurking, prowling around like that lion St. Peter referred to, mentioned earlier, and could erupt with Russia over the fighting in Ukraine or perhaps with China over Taiwan. And the Middle East is still a smoldering cauldron.
The church itself these days, whether out of ambivalence or just plain ignorance or lack of fortitude, is not providing much opposition or guidance on how to deal with all of this as the number of its parishioners dwindles.
The point here is not to rail against God for allowing these chastisements. As in many past times even up until the present He holds our turning away from Him to create some Godless utopia up to us as a mirror to see the horror of our subsequent misdeeds, for those who have enough sense to look at the resulting chaos and carnage.
This doesn’t mean He’s given up on us, by any means. God wishes all of us to be saved but He cannot force us to follow Him in doing His will. But this gives those of us who might otherwise feel isolated and scorned in a world saturated with “woke” propaganda in the media, education, and tragically even in fields like law and medicine, all the more reason to be praying and living in a sacramental life in a state of grace!
And offering up your sufferings in prayer to God for your own salvation as well as that of others. This page from our site may be of help with understanding this concept.
From Herod to Hitler and beyond, those who deny Christ and wish to make Gods of themselves instead have caused great suffering and heartache and needless loss of millions of lives.
And political correctness is running so rampant in this country that many are afraid to reaffirm basic biological truths that women give birth, not men, for example, and that there are two sexes, not 30 or 50 gendersor however many deemed legitimate by some misguided souls in government or academia.
And yes, although this might be difficult, think about this. Would you rather live in a world with all this corruption, chaos, and those many falsehoods with God allowing this for some greater good so that we might return to Him?
Or one without God, in a world filled with misguided or even evil wokesters and power mad technocrats who wish to compel your acquiescence to their false divinity by any means necessary. Where truth is whatever they say it is!
If nothing else, keep your prayer life active, even when, especially when, perhaps, the last thing you feel like doing is praying. God hears all prayers as He does everything, and perseverance in prayer and petitions shows God how much you trust Him to take care of your particular situation, however either frivolous, or painful, on the other hand, that it may be.
His answer to your repeated prayers will either be to give you what you ask for, or otherwise, to give you the strength, grace, and equanimity needed to cope with troubling or tragic circumstances. If this helps, remember also that you can offer up your sufferings to our Lord in prayer for Him to use for your salvation and perhaps those most in need that you may not even know!
Renowned priest and exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger sees the current turmoil as having been predicted both in scripture and in private revelations. He says things will get worse before they get better but when they do, when God has given sinful humanity a much needed lesson in what is and isn’t good and Godly, we will see an era of great peace and triumph for the church and humanity.
We can take heart that God, as truth, wins in the end. In the meantime, trusting in our Lord, we must take up the challenge for each one of us to advance in Holiness trusting in His help and grace to make what is bitter in our lives better, or at least more manageable, and to make what is good that much more awesome!
As Father Chad put it in his talk recently: “The good news is its going to get worse because that tells us that the prophecies are being fulfilled, and that also means that the good is coming and that has to be your focus, don’t take your focus off of God..if you keep your focus on God then in the end you will have peace and joy despite the tumult that is occurring worldwide.”
In closing, keep in mind a couple of inspiring verses from Scripture: First we have Jesus’ words to His disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel 28:30.: “I am with you always until the end of the age”. And finally, there's this great line from Psalm 95:7-8; about God: “If today you hear His voice harden not your hearts!”