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A while back I was in a Songwriting workshop when one of the participants, an elderly gentleman, played a song he wrote with an intriguing title: “Make God Smile”. I think about this suggestion from time to time in the midst of all the turmoil, hatred, and, not by any means coincidentally, people turning away from Christ and Christianity these days!
In spite of all the evil and sin around us and in us, this is an especially good time to try to make God smile. He puts up with so much from fallen humanity. He suffered so much not just from, and for, those jeering mobs at His Passion in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago, but also from and for us today as well, including me and you!
As an instructor in the RCIA program at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City (for those adults converting to the Catholic faith) I’ve had a tendency in classes there to call our free will, that ability our Lord has given us to choose to love Him, both wonderful and horrible. It is wonderful in that it is God’s loving gift to us. It becomes horrible in how much we abuse it!
Considering that abuse, many people ask “where is God with all this evil around us? All the wars, crime, corruption, broken lives and families, and such. Why doesn’t He do something about it!” Rest assured our Lord is constantly trying to help people turn away from sin, division and hatred and towards the true love and peace that only He can give us!
But as St. Theresa of Calcutta said we have to give Him permission to do His work through us. He knocks on the door to our hearts but he won’t kick it in! Think of the following prayer as a loving gesture of reparation and comfort for the affliction He must feel from our sins!
Dear Lord, you endured your Passion at Calvary for all our sins, including mine. In respecting our free will you still suffer seeing sinful humanity tear itself apart in pursuit of so many false Gods such those of money, status, power, possessions and fame. Help me, with your grace, to make You smile by doing my best to repent of my sins, which so often offend and hurt you. Amen.
A God who loves us so much can’t make loving him compulsory, as if we would be captives rather than captivated! The Ten Commandments are meant to help us be at peace and love with God and our neighbor. Yet our fallen nature and proclivity to sin have caused so much rebellion against our Creator!
Indeed, Jesus sweat blood envisioning so much of humanity’s coldness and mayhem the night before His sacrifice for us on the Cross at Calvary.
He founded the Catholic Church to be His mystical body, His bride, only to see some of her members running off with one ne’er-do-well after another in various heresies and cults. And people fighting each other over the centuries over various disputes, both religious and worldly.
He’s also suffered, as has humanity in general, from all those despots who sought to rise higher than God by not serving Him, much like Lucifer before he became Satan, thinking that they could be like Gods themselves! Think of Herod the Great in Jesus’ time. Or Hitler, Mao, or Stalin in the last century, among many examples!
And so many people either don’t care about what's right and wrong, or frame what’s right as what advances their interests, whether this is objectively misguided or not.
They say, in effect, “Don’t give me that God stuff. I don’t need your rules. You’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway. It’s what I say is right that counts!” As Pontius Pilate said to Jesus when our Lord told him of His mission to testify to the Truth: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
In turning away from Jesus who is, as He Himself said in John’s Gospel Chapter 14, Verse 6, “the way the truth and the life”, society today is sinking into the quicksand of what Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the dictatorship of relativism, where truth is in the eye of the beholder and good is considered evil and vice versa.
And, as a result, so many of us become estranged from God by getting caught up in the sinful behavior and corruption we see all around us!
It’s enough to make you ask or wonder, as I mentioned earlier, “if God is so powerful and loving, why can’t he, or won’t he, stop all the evil in this world. Why must I or my family or neighbors or other loved ones suffer?”
The short answer is that while God desires our happiness and goodness, He will permit evil and allow us to undergo suffering, out of respect for our free will, and also so that we may advance in holiness through trusting in Him in our trials. We are called to imitate Him in sanctity in offering up our sufferings for the good and salvation of ourselves and others.
Why did our Blessed Mother shed tears when she appeared in church approved private revelations in LaSalette in France in 1846 and Akita in Japan in 1973? Why did she seem rather solemn at Fatima? Because we wouldn’t listen to her Son! And that “we” sadly includes many clerics as well, which has caused great scandal and harm to our faith.
None of us can ever fully comprehend God’s ways, yet we know He does wish to bring as much good out of bad or tragic situations as we will let Him. (Think of all the wonderful efforts of people helping victims of the various recent hurricanes, for example.)
Today, we are faced with challenges as to Christ’s Divinity as the Son of God, both from religious and secular sources. Yet, remember that Jesus Himself suffers in our suffering. He says in Matthew’s Gospel that, in effect, we treat Him the way we treat each other, for better or worse (Matt 25: 34-46).
And what did He ask Saul before he became Paul, when that great saint and apostle first encountered Christ on the road to Damascus to arrest His followers? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me [Italics added]” (Acts 9:4)?
God never meant for us to have such unhappiness but since the fall of Adam and Eve it is very much a part of the spiritual combat we face every day, as fallen human beings with a proclivity to sin.
Even St. Paul noting his own struggle within his soul to do good and avoid evil said ”I do not do the good that I want to do. But the evil that I hate is what I do" (Rom 7:15).
Obedience to Christ entails making choices that will not make us popular at times. No one knew that better than our Lord!
It is important that we who feel caught up or otherwise assailed in the midst of this spiritual combat between Christ and Satan, between the source of life and that of death between God and the ape of God, not to turn away from our Lord when faced with tragedies, such as the loss of a job or loved one, or when faced with illness or ill will, which so many people are these days!
Pray for His help in such situations, or at least for the grace to get through them, as often as you can. The Psalmists did so and inspired generations in the process.
The all too human response in the face of tragedy or wickedness is to either fold one’s tent and become numb through various forms of self-medication; or to just give in to evil and bitterness, turning your back on God, either willfully or not.
Acting out that kind of anger because you’re mad at God for allowing evil to occur only makes things worse! Turning your back on our Lord means turning your back on the graces and strength He wants to give you to help you carry your crosses, to help you with misfortunes and tragedy. And in doing so you risk losing the true Eternal happiness and contentment He wants you to have with Him in Heaven one day.
If you’re focused on imitating our Lord as He emptied Himself for his Father (Philippians 2:7) by emptying yourself in humility by letting Him take over and work with you in dealing with life’s misfortunes, that will make Him smile.
Strive to keep Him in your life in showing His love for others and by keeping His commandments. Cultivate a daily prayer life, even if it just means saying some short prayers or an Our Father or a Hail Mary every day. You can find those prayers and many others on our website!
Educate yourself in the faith through its teachings and writings about and by the saints. There are many classic books readily available in print and online. Turn to our Lord in prayer, and frequent the Sacraments of the Eucharist (Mass) and Penance (Confession). These can especially help you absorb His graces so you can reflect His presence in good times and bad. They also can work as a shield against sinful inclinations and as a source of comfort and strength!
This all might seem like a tall order, but don’t think of it that way! Do what you can, when you can, but keep God in your schedule in some way each day. And don’t be afraid to let Him know how you feel in your own words as well!
Considering that we live in precarious times, staying close to God can help you put on what St. Paul called once His armor (Eph 6:10) in dealing with the “slings and arrows” of misfortunes to come.
Make God smile in little acts of kindness towards others where they can see Christ working in and through you. You might have heard the expression that God writes straight with crooked lines. In a world saturated with evil, Help Him to do so!
And this above all, remember to give God your concerns and anxieties, as well as your struggles with pride, loneliness, and insecurity. Don’t give then to Satan! Our Lord wants to lift you up, even in trials, whereas Satan wants to drag you down to his miserable, wretched kingdom of Hell!
The famed archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once bemoaned wasted suffering, meaning that which we experience without offering it up to Christ as He did to His Heavenly Father, for the salvation of others and expiation for sins!
Don’t assume all is lost in the midst of the chaos, corruption, and evil all around us. Those who established the church while being martyred by the likes of the Roman emperors Nero in the first century and Diocletian in the 4th didn’t think so.
Nor did such great Saints such as Athanasius, later in the 4th century, and Francis de Sales in the 17th, in times of great heresy and division for the church. And I shudder to think what might have happened if Britain had just thrown in the towel and surrendered to Hitler in defeat in the dark days of 1940.
Sometimes I keep in mind a verse from one of former Beatle George Harrison’s songs. Although he was not Catholic, he came up with a very good line in one of his tunes entitled appropriately enough Beware of Darkness. “It can hurt you, make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for.”
Remember that God constantly tries through us to bring as much light (good) as He can out of darkness (evil). Help Him to do so by coming to the aid of those afflicted by various troubles, even if it's just in prayer, and keeping your composure in your own trials!
That will make our Lord smile, and you as well in drawing closer to Him.After all, as St. John reminds us in his first letter in the New Testament, (Chapter 4, verse 8), God is love!