Very late last night, I heard about the Dallas shooting (which is only about 100 miles from where I live) and watched as the number of deaths and injuries climbed. Last week I heard about the death of a kidnapped priest. A couple weeks ago, I found out that the priest who heard my first confession and confirmed me has been diagnosed with a brain tumor (contact him here, if you like). Last month, I learned about two couples who had both lost their babies during or shortly after pregnancy. A few months ago, we took a collection at Mass to support people who had lost their homes from a tornado. Before that were the Paris shooting, the scandals associated with the university my husband attends, the kidnapping of several young girls from a village...
It seems as if every hour offers a new crisis. Even this list, which includes so many awful things, does not speak of the homeless mothers who beg to feed their children, the men who have been laid off and can't find work, the sick children who doctors can't cure but instead offer to make the remainder of their lives as comfortable as possible, the elderly in nursing homes who rarely receive visitors, the addicts who try but just can't quit, the people who have counted every last cent but barring a miracle will not be able to make rent this month, or any of the people who see these problems and feel like hope is too elusive. At some point, we are tempted to say (or we really do say), "How much more of this can I take?"
I went to Mass this week and Father (who was a visiting priest) talked about gratitude and how we do not show it as often as we should to God. This is not to say that we should be grateful for awful things that happen (though good can come from bad events). Rather, when so many things happen in the world that we deem "bad," it can be very difficult to notice the good in the world. How can I look at a student's drawing and appreciate their creativity and passion if I am thinking instead about how other kids throughout the world don't even have crayons, don't even have an education, don't even have a supportive family to encourage such pursuits? How can I receive God's grace if I am focused on my sins and instead of doing something about them and myself, I am wallowing in my sinfulness?
But wallowing in thoughts of how many bad things are happening does not make good things happen. It does not bring compassion, mercy and kindness to those who have suffered. It does not bring light into the darkest of situations. It does not make us, as Christ's body on earth, do the job which was given to us: to teach everyone of God's goodness and to love as He loves. We may be the only Christian or positive influence another person encounters: we ought to make each moment of our lives a testament to Christ, so that even in those single moments, people see Christ in us.
So no matter what is going on in your own life, in the lives of your friends, or in the life of the world, do something to communicate God's love and grace to others. Take heart that chaos and crises are not the ultimate plan for the world. Take heart that there is great mercy in the Sacrament of Confession and (in Father Z style) go to Confession! Take heart that there is great grace and strength in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Take heart that the cross is steady while the world is turning.
"In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world." [John 16:33]
"Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world." [Pope Benedict XVI]