Phil 4: 4-8

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pray, Hope and Don't Worry - But We May Want to Consider Making Some Changes

More and more articles are being published by a variety of reputable sources regarding the current state of the national and global economies, and some key indicators show there could be trouble ahead—(think about China’s problems, U.S. corporate stock buybacks, overall economic growth rates, etc.)  As well, it doesn’t take a cultural anthropologist or sociology pundit to point out some clearly observable cultural and societal trends here in the U.S.A. that should be troubling to all Christians—(think about abortion, recent court decisions, religious liberty, and the like.) 

We're also starting to hear about the spiritual downside (and upside) of all of these secular trends and forces.  A nation like ours, blessed as it has been, is virtually thumbing its nose at our Creator with the decisions our society has made, or at least condones, if only implicitly and passively.  We’re being reminded that we, as a nation, are not storing up wealth in heaven with what we have been doing, and some religious commentators are even suggesting that we’re ripe for a comeuppance.  That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that, in their opinion, potential spiritually salutary benefits may be had in any widespread, disruptive changes that could occur.  The nature of what these changes might involve seems to be somewhat ambiguous at best, depending upon whom you read or listen to.  So, you might be asking, “What possible good could come out of some kind of widespread, disruptive change?” What we’re being told is that it would allow each of us to do a real serious examen (see note below)—an in-depth look at the way we’ve been living--and truly confess, repent, and change our ways for the better.  In our consulting practice, my business partner and I tell our clients that all feedback is good—it’s just that some of it is harder to read and hear than the rest of it.  Each of us probably could benefit from an in-depth look at where we’re at and where we’re headed in a spiritual sense, deciding what part of that feedback we dislike the most and then doing something about it. But why wait till something outside our control happens?  Why not do the examen now and start making those changes we've known we need to make all along?

The other day at Mass, our Associate Pastor, Fr. Ricardo Rosales, asked us in his homily to reflect on whether we are living each day as if it were our last day.  This is some awesome food for thought—are we living today as much as possible in our efforts to follow Jesus, showing his merciful love to everyone else with whom we interact, even those characters we don’t much care for?  Is what we’re doing directed at bringing others to the Lord?  When they see us do they see more of Jesus, or more of us, in the way we behave and talk with them?  That’s really the question before us now—are we working actively to try to stay in a state of grace, or do we simply reason that we’ll get to the confessional at some point when we’re not so busy, and make up for everything then?

But will we have time to make it to the confessional before we're called away?  A meeting I was scheduled to run this week has been postponed due to the untimely death of a young man who was to be a key participant. He died unexpectedly while participating in an outdoor sporting event this last weekend. All of us have one or more examples of something like this, but we don't think that it would happen to us or to someone we know.  So, again, why not start making the changes we need to make now, and quit putting them off?   

On the one hand, we may have some work to do, with God's grace, to better prepare ourselves to meet Him someday, whenever that day may come. On the other hand, we need not be paralyzed with anxiety about it. And it doesn’t take real or imagined disasters to cause one anxiety and worry.  No matter what sorts of challenges we run into—and we each have or will have our share of problems unique to us, regardless of general economic conditions or other major trends and forces—are we turning our problems over to God?  That is, are we praying for the grace we need to make changes that will get us closer to Christ, trusting in Jesus’ Divine Mercy and His love for us?  Or are we worrying and anxious? Consider the following Scripture passages:

Psalm 37:3-8
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and be nourished in safety. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday. Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Do not fret; it tends only to evil.

Mt 6:25–34
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  ¶ Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ¶ And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; ¶ yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. ¶ But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. ¶ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Whether we are concerned about some big picture, future scenarios or just the routine challenges of life in what’s considered to be our “normal,” everyday existence, do we have a personal, one-on-one relationship with Jesus that involves taking time to talk with Him daily?  Do we have a routine prayer life?  The Lord wants our souls—do we want to give them to Him?

Fr. Joseph Esper suggests a couple dozen specific actions we each can take to get our souls in shape for any eventuality in this life, and to prepare for the next life, including for example:
  • Get into and stay in a state of grace through frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Attend Mass as often as possible, beyond just Sunday attendance
  • Pray the Rosary daily
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet regularly
  • Read the Bible daily
  • And more…
The closer we can get to Our Lord, and the more we can rely on Him, the better able we will be to weather any storm that may toss our individual barques around.  We can’t know what the Lord has in store for us—but if he were to call us today, would we be ready for Him?  We should do something about it, but we should not stress about it--listen to what St. Pio tells us:

"Pray, hope, and don't worry. Anxiety doesn't help at all. Our Merciful Lord will listen to your prayer."

Indeed, we can pray ("unceasingly" as Scripture prompts us), and we can pray for God's grace to help us work earnestly on changing those behaviors that keep us from getting closer to Him.  We can commit our way to the Lord and He will act.  (Ps. 37)  And there's no time like now.

Feel free to pass this link on to others. - God bless

"Examen" - A formal examination of conscience, made usually daily 

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