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I'd like to start out this page with the following prayer relating to our subject, coping in turbulent times, of empty shelves and empty souls:
Dear Lord, in this time of increasing scarcity and uncertainty, let me not shut you out when I worry about the future and otherwise feel frustrated about how to provide for myself and my loved ones. Help me to turn to you for help in prayer and in my thoughts as my first refuge, not my last.
It was two years ago during a previous Lent that everything suddenly changed. As if someone flipped a switch we lost freedoms in lockdowns because of the emerging Coronavirus Pandemic. There were empty shelves in supermarkets for things we’d never imagine could be scarce.
Things we’d taken for granted like restaurants, small businesses, and even some larger department and chain stores (but not the big box ones) and such were suddenly closed for an indefinite period of time. In a country where there was always stuff to fill those empty spaces in our rooms and in our lives it was either no longer available or harder to come by.
And when we were seemingly trapped in our homes and told to stay put or communicate only by computer, if we were fortunate enough to be able to do so, there was another emptiness that emerged. That of contact with the outside world. And even our churches were shut tight, for the first time at Easter!
For many people empty shelves enhanced an emptiness in their souls. For those who weren't particularly religious, for whom keeping up with the Joneses and thinking you are what you own is all that matters, this was especially difficult.
How to fill that void? Some didn’t know how, and alcoholism, substance abuse, and even suicides increased during the lockdowns, as did crime overall.
For those of us who were striving to practice our faith in our walk with Jesus this suddenly meant no sacraments or worship in a staggering number of churches whose doors were locked shut. Easter celebrations in 2020 became virtual. Instead of streaming into Masses in their parishes the faithful had to take cold comfort in Streaming Masses on computers, tablets, and smartphones at home.
Two years later, as restrictions are gradually being lifted, there are still many empty shelves in grocery stores all around the country from supply chain disruptions supposedly related to the Pandemic.
Some people have expressed the quite plausible belief that the Pandemic and its often chaotic and authoritarian side effects are part of a Divine Chastisement for years of apostasy, abortion, and such matters as political correctness on libidinal issues.
While God has an abundance of mercy, at some point he shows His justice through chastisements to shake us out of our worldly doldrums that we might turn our faces not our backs to Him (Jer 32:33) and return to following Him in loving obedience.
Sometimes God needs to strip away our covetousness and idol worship, such as that found in the entertainment industry, so that we may seek Him rather than the numerous false gods of money, fame, narcissism, social media, sex, and power, for examples.
While God has given us much to enjoy, like food, sports, music, nature, and various hobbies and skills, He has meant for us not to develop an inordinate attachment to these things, lest His blessings become curses. This can lead to envy, greed, vanity and all sorts of traps that keep us from following and loving our Creator.
We need to pray to God now more than ever for His wisdom as we strive to give all our concerns over to Him, knowing that He is in charge and wants our greater good, even if it means undergoing great hardships on the road to Heaven!
St. Augustine’s great quote can help give us all some much needed perspective on all this. He wrote in his famous work Confessions, talking about God, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” C.S. Lewis echoed this in his great book Mere Christianity
God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol [gasoline], and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.
That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Yet, how can one find happiness and feel Divine contentment in these crazy times when it seems for many of us like God is quite distant? While the Pandemic and its restrictions have receded somewhat, this is still a time of great trials.
War in Ukraine has brought to the fore not only the brutality of war, along with major economic as well as physical dislocations, but the horribly menacing prospect of its going nuclear in a threatening manner we have not experienced since the early 1960’s with the Cuban Missle Crisis.
In addition we are facing scarcity of food and other resources as mentioned earlier, along with inflation from ever rising energy costs.
This has left many of us wondering how we will manage to take care of ourselves and our families.
On top of that, we have the world’s elites enamored of their own so-called expertise who are thinking of themselves as Gods, worshipping themselves as saviors, not of fallen humanity like Jesus but rather as saviors of planet Earth, fighting what is called Climate Change.
They seek to bring about a supposed Great Reset in an authoritarian one world government that will supposedly satisfy all our needs without Divine guidance or grace. Yet those touting such a humanistic panacea for the world’s ills are only giving us empty promises to go along with those empty shelves and empty souls!
Given all this distressing news, now more than ever we need to fill whatever emptiness might exist in our souls with our Lord and His grace! This Lent is a particularly good time to take stock of what we have or have not done on our spiritual journey. As St. Paul once wrote to the Corinthians urging them to turn to God without delay:”Behold now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).
For many of us, this might be especially difficult, given these times. It is all too easy and natural to ask in the midst of all this evil "where is God?". This question has been asked for centuries going back to times of the Psalmists and before.
Yet, while respecting our ability to choose Him over evil, this God-given free will, our Lord wants to fill you with His love and grace all the more in the midst of your doubts and worries. Worrying is all too natural. And yet many times worry is mixed with legitimate desires to see one’s way through the fog of falsehoods, and unbelief, as mentioned earlier, regarding inflation and providing for ourselves and our loved ones.
That’s where prayer to the Holy Spirit can help! Pray for Divine discernment in the midst of chastisement as to how best to navigate through these changing challenging times. In part that means seeking what is above (Col 3:2), that we may live in such a manner as to store up treasures in heaven free from decay or theft as our Lord advised us to do in the (Matt 6:19-20).
Jesus also noted in that Sermon “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21). In other words, put our Creator’s desires for you first rather than your desires for what He's created.
It ever hurts as well to spend some quiet time each day doing spiritual reading such as the Gospels, or going over the basics of our faith in its catechisms. The most prominent of these that I will link to are the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the earlier Roman Catechism, also known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent. For something more quickly accessible perhaps than these two titles, there is still the quite valuable, well-known Baltimore Catechism.
Along with praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance, practice a kind of “loving detachment” from both the pleasures and pains of this world. Equanimity is key! And you need God’s help in acquiring this important virtue, to be able to roll with life’s punches, and yet keep a clear head, especially nowadays!
In this regard, offering up your trials and misfortunes to Jesus in atonement for sins and the salvation of souls, yours as well as others, is a great way to make coping with them easier. Think in this regard of this great saying: ‘Suffering can make you either better or bitter.”
Pray and fast and think of Jesus’ love for you and His mercy. And seek out people as well, whether online or in person, who feel the same way or for whom you can offer comfort and support, which is a great way of showing Jesus to others, by the way! Let our Lord fill whatever void in your heart and soul that He so ardently desires to fill.
This is not always easy, and God didn’t promise any of us a Rose Garden in this life. He Himself underwent a terrible agony at the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His Crucifixion that caused Him to sweat blood, quite possibly according to church approved private revelations, from experiencing the weight of so many sins from fallen Humanity.
But when you pray and partake of the sacraments on a regular basis, and nourish your soul with scripture and good books by and about the saints, you give God more room to give you the grace you need in good times or bad!
And that’s something you’re not going to get from just sports or whatever the top streaming shows are on CBS, Amazon, or Netflix! And in bearing with our sufferings with Christ’s help and offering them to Him in union with His sufferings on the cross we may have greater hope that we are on the right road to an eternity of bliss and comfort and endless happiness in heaven!