How can I follow Christ in these dark times?
Q. DEAR FR. JOE: The world seems very dark lately and it’s really wearing me down. How can I be a witness to Christ in times like this?
A. I’ve felt this a lot too, lately. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who pointed out that the teaching on original sin is probably the most easily provable doctrine of the Church, and days like this are good evidence for that position! These are dark days. I always say this and I won’t hammer it too hard, but I will say it again: We should pray. We should pray against the darkness. I strongly recommend that we pray the Prayer to St. Michael, the Hail Mary and ask for the intercession of St. Joseph. We are facing great evil in these days and we need to pray against that evil.
Beyond that, I want to give us a few general ideas that can help us be a witness to Christ in these dark days. I’ll share an action, a commitment and a discipline that will help you shine.
FIRST, AN ACTION: CARE FOR THE POOR As Catholics, there are innumerable ways we can give to the poor. We can give our money, our time and our prayers to the least among us. Volunteer at a pro-life agency, donate to Catholic Charities, help out in your local food pantry. These things are not “extras.” It is the clear and consistent teaching of our Church and its founder, Jesus Christ, that our treasure and our talents do not exist for our benefit, but for the benefit of the least among us. When we are struggling with the darkness, it can be an incredible blessing to give our energy, time and even financial assistance to the poor.
SECOND, A COMMITMENT TO HOLINESS As God’s children, we have two choices: to be a saint or to go to hell. There’s no third option here. The dark is getting darker, the confusion and lies from hell are gaining more and more ground in our culture, and any moral authority our Church once held in society is severely damaged. We have to be the solution and we can’t be if we are not saints. We. Must. Be. Holy. Holiness begins with the internal. Make a solid commitment to pray every day and never give up on it no matter how many times you fail. Make sure you get to confession once a month, minimum. Each day, examine any way that you did not love God or others as you should and ask his forgiveness. The next morning when you wake up, you’ve got a fresh start. Read one of the Gospels, repent of evil thoughts and actions, do whatever it takes. Coupled with a life of service to others, you will find your life changing, and your whole viewpoint changing, as you realize that each day you are growing closer and closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.
THIRD, A DISCIPLINE OF MEEKNESS Why meekness? Because I find it exceedingly rare. Jesus specifically calls us to meekness, but we miss that call, perhaps because we don’t know what it is. To be meek is to refuse to do harm. That’s it.
A few years ago, I had an experience that drove me to strive for meekness. I was and am surprised at what a challenge it is. There’s a lot inside of us that wants us to be anything but meek and frankly, not many people honor it because they interpret it as weakness. Start striving for meekness and it will astound you how much strength it requires!
How to be meek? Here’s a few ways I have found helpful to practice the gift of meekness:
- If I can’t say it out of love, I will not say it.
- If I am not asked my opinion, I will not offer it, unless failing to speak up will cause harm to others.
- When deciding whether to do “a” or “b,” I will go with what others want, as long as it is a moral option.
- When someone hurts me, I will instantly ask God to forgive them and help me to forgive them.
These are just some of the things that I noted to help me challenge myself to be meek, and I have found it very, very good for me.
I urge all my readers to take this call very seriously – by God’s grace, we not only can do these things, but we must do these things! Scripture tells us that, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” and I have found that to be true.
Let’s make a commitment, not to spend our precious God-given energy raging at those, them or the other, but instead to focus on caring for the poor, being holy and the discipline of meekness. May God strengthen and bless our efforts to be his.