Do you feel like you're at your wit's end these days? Or worse, like you can't go on? There is a poignant paradox at work here: You might feel like you're all alone but you by no means are!
In this both turbulent and stagnant economy many other people are wondering how they're going to feed their families or even if there's going to be a roof over their heads. Where’s the next paycheck coming from? Or even the next meal? A full-blown recession, and possibly even an economic collapse, seem to be lurking around some not-so-distant corner. And “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt 24:6) abound as well.
While many seek salvation in Governments around the world trying in all sorts of ways to escape from deep pits of debt, Christ has in many instances been cast aside in the name of political correctness and relativism. Indeed, being a Christian can mean a death sentence in many ISIS-threatened territories.
But it can also cause one havoc in this country in schools, the military, and even in some companies these days where Jesus has become the “J” word! I have read stories of people encountering legal or other difficulties for mentioning His name at high school graduations, for example! A good example of this disturbing situation can be found here.
It has been said that our problems, and their solutions, aren’t political but rather spiritual in nature. We Catholics, as well as many other Christians, understand all too well that as the world gets crazier and crazier, we need to turn to someone other than some Wise Men and Women who will supposedly take care of all our needs.
That “someone” is God, in His Triune Wisdom and Majesty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! We weren’t meant to “go it alone”, to reach Paradise on our own steam. As C.S. Lewis once beautifully observed in his book Mere Christianity, God meant Himself to be fuel and food for our spirits, and that without him, we might as well be a car trying to run without gasoline!
Still, in this time of great uncertainty and topsy-turvy turbulence, many Catholics and other Christians, feel very much like they are going it alone. It becomes all too easy these days to feel estranged from God, or even to question His very existence. As if to say “God where are you when I need you most?”
This is by no means a new question of course! Many of the Psalms deal with this very sense of estrangement, including one that often comes up in the Holy Week Liturgies, Psalm 22, from which our Lord quoted on the cross: “My God my God why have you abandoned me?”
Yet, it is important to remember that while God may test us with His absence He will never really leave us alone, unless we want Him to. And even then He may very well be seeking us, out like the shepherd seeking the lost sheep in the Gospels (Luke 15:3-7)!
(Interestingly enough in this regard, Psalm 22 ends on a positive note with the Psalmist praising God in anticipation of His rescuing him!)
The waters are raging for many of us these days, and economic and social hurricanes, or even tsunamis, will affect many more before all is said and done. This brings to mind our Lord’s advice in the Sermon on the Mount when he said: “Everyone therefore who hears these my words and acts upon them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house on rock. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall, because it was founded on rock. And everyone who hears these my words and does not act upon them, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and was utterly ruined” (Matt 7:24-28).
So, how best to prepare?
Use this time in Lent to shore up your own foundation. Is it more sand or rock? Go to Jesus in prayer, whether in set prayers you know or just in your own words (whenever you can make time during the day); or in meditative reflection on scripture.
Strive as best you can to keep our Lord’s commandments, and above all, to love Him as he once said “with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind” (Matt 22:37), and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39).
Go to Mass and confession regularly as much as possible to store up graces you’ll need to get through these trying times. Read scripture passages, the Catechism, and some good spiritual works by the saints found in reading lists like this one with its wide selection. (You can also read excerpts from these books if this list seems too daunting! Many of these can be found on the internet or are available at amazon.com.) (See more suggestions for good preparation in the box below.)
Pray the Rosary daily if possible, but with some regularity if not. The Blessed Virgin Mary has many graces she’s like to give you and, as His mother, she is a uniquely powerful intercessor with her divine Son.
And above all, put on Christ! Let Him work within you so you can reflect His Spirit as fully as possible to those around you. Our Lord told us we would all have crosses to carry in this life as the price of admission to the Paradise of Eternal Life with Him (and with each other as we were meant to be, God Willing!) in heaven (Luke 9:23). Let Him help you carry your crosses so you can better assist others in carrying theirs!
I don’t mean to sound saccharine or Pollyanna-ish in giving this advice. When darkness surrounds us it is indeed hard to find God, much less to magnify Him in our souls as our Blessed Mother did! (Luke 1:46) I worry for myself that my faith in Jesus might well be like that of St. Peter’s at the Last Supper, a seed sown on rocky ground (Matt 13:20-21).
Our first Pope vigorously proffered total love and loyalty to Jesus then. Peter was certain he’d never turn away from our Lord! Indeed, you may recall that he even pulled out his sword to attack one of the people seeking to arrest Jesus soon after His Agony in the Garden (Matt 26:51).
Yet, while seeking to warm himself by a charcoal fire in the high priest’s court soon after Christ was arrested, he froze up when confronted about his association with “the Galilean” out of a sudden paralyzing fear for his safety. Peter did indeed deny knowing Him three times, just as our Lord had predicted!
While he made a truly spectacular “comeback” after this and served Jesus and His church with great wisdom and fervor (see Chapters 2-4 in the book of Acts, for example), his denial gives us all a good lesson in not assuming we can serve God in our own strength.
Two deadly pitfalls in our spiritual life are presumption and despair, either thinking we can take our salvation for granted or, conversely, that we can never achieve it! Either way, we’re leaving God out of the picture!
We all need Him more than we can imagine, especially now. I once saw a motto on another blog that sums it up nicely for me. Ultimately, it’s “Christ or Chaos”.
Stay as close as you can to Jesus, as he were a vine you were holding onto in the midst of fierce rapids to keep from drowning! Indeed, Jesus once said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The sun may not come up tomorrow, or anytime soon, with all due respect to the writers of that song from the musical “Annie”. But now more than ever I pray for myself and for those reading this to have faith in the bigger picture, that God is still in charge, even in this world caught up in a multitude of deadly sins!
There is indeed a spiritual battle going on and the real enemies are not greedy politicians or businessmen of various stripes; or the media, or even the increasingly Godless pagan culture we live in, although these all can indeed inflict a great deal of damage on society at large. As Peter Kreeft pointed out in this great article the real enemies are sin and Satan!
Yet, in spite of his trail of death and destruction and broken shattered lives, the devil didn’t get the last word at Calvary and he won’t now or anytime, as dark and disoriented as things may seem now.
I pray you may use this time in Lent to get, or keep, your spiritual house in order, on a foundation of solid rock rather than sand with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And may we all continue to cultivate these three habits of holiness way past Easter! Feel free to post prayer requests with us here as well. I also hope these suggestions below can be of some help.
Wishing you and yours a blessed Lent,