Are the sorrows and problems of the world getting you down? Just the presence of evil in the world gets to me sometimes if I think too much about it. If I don’t check myself, I begin to think that even God cannot do anything about the world, the flesh and the devil and the havoc that all three play on ourselves, our families, our communities, countries and the world.
But that is not true – God is here, right now, in mass shootings, in pride parades, and in the heart of every man and woman by virtue of the fact that he created each of them and loves them. There are, however, a few very powerful ways in which we can remind ourselves that God is here and in control of our lives and our world, while planting the seed of God within our neighbour at the same time.
“God governs the world but prayer governs God himself.” St. John Chrysostom
Don’t discount prayer. It is so important in the spiritual life, and what’s more, it works. I have many personal stories I could relate to you about how God has directly answered a specific prayer of mine – from changing a friend’s life to being given a free car when I needed it. When I say that prayer works, I know what I’m talking about. The world is in desperate need of our prayers, as are our communities, families and churches, and even ourselves. Alfred Tennyson once wrote that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of – and he is right. When the world, the flesh or the devil are getting you down, pray like your life depended on it. Because often it does.
Our culture doesn’t think much of fasting – which is refraining from food and drink as an expression of interior penance, in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days…(CCC) . It’s one of those things that, in the eyes of our world, can only legitimately be done for weight loss purposes. But done for any other reason, fasting makes no sense. Unless you’re a follower of Christ. Then fasting takes on a whole new meaning and has much power to change the world and those around you. Aquinas says in the Summa (Question 147) that fasting “cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.” So not only are we changing ourselves, helping ourselves along the road to holiness when we fast, but we are also bringing goodness, beauty and truth to a world full of lust, pride and everything wretched and sinful.
In his book Happy Are You Poor, Fr. Thomas Dubay has much to say about the importance of almsgiving, primarily that the poor in the world are our actual brothers and sisters, not just theoretical family. Dubay says that when we withhold and do not give to the poor, not out of our superfluity but out of our need, then we are withholding that which is owed to our neighbour in all justice. We directly deprive a human being what is owed to them. Almsgiving, therefore, makes things right with our neighbour, and in doing so, it has the power to combat our own selfishness and bring our neighbour to the generous and loving God that we already know. Just ask any one of Mother Theresa’s nuns – the Missionaries of Charity. How many of people have been brought to the Lord from the generosity of each nun in giving, not just all their money, but their very selves to the poor on the streets. Almsgiving is very powerful indeed, and it has the added bonus of helping us to keep money in the right place – not on a throne in our hearts where God should dwell.
So when you feel the ugliness of the world closing in on you, a good way to bring everything back to the Lord is to practice one, two or all of these concrete steps. I think you will find yourself, and your world, miraculously changed by the goodness and generosity of God.
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