“Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”
Many today do not feel much like rejoicing. Maybe you don’t either! But you have to admit that you would really like to feel better, be happier and have confidence. So what’s up with all the disappointment and anxiety around us? And what can we do about it?
In much of the West, the debt crisis has cast uncertainty among the nations. In the United States, millions of homeowners owe more on their home mortgage than the value of their home. This has exacerbated the problem of homeowners whose “operating” budget is underwater – those who spend more money each pay period than they make. These families live month-to-month and are ill-equipped to face a job (income) crisis or an unexpected expense.
The problem extends to local and state governments, and also to the Federal budget where the debt has climbed to more than $16 trillion. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that the Federal debt service (interest paid on Federal borrowing) will soon reach $1.5 trillion per year. Eventually, unless a change of course is taken, the U.S. will not be able to avoid defaulting on its debt, the same as many homeowners already defaulted on their mortgages. Crucial entitlement programs (such as Social Security and Medicare) will collapse as will the economy in general, leaving many more out of work. And with more unemployed, our collective defense will collapse as well, leaving us unprepared to defend ourselves against a hostile world or able to help those at home or abroad in need of financial assistance.
We have lost our way – and not just fiscally. The moral fabric of the Christian West has been torn apart by our embrace of abortion, contraception and other sexual immorality. Many of our churches are empty. Our disregard for the dignity of the human person, the right to life and care for one another has left us a people devoid of honor and charity. Many families are in marital crisis. We are greedy, self-centered and addicted to drugs, sex, money or power. Heck, maybe all four.
Is it any wonder that we face, anew, aggressive and hostile threats to the practice of religion and traditional morality?
This is not as it should be. It is not God’s Will that we should be so unlike who He created us to be. We have lost our way – we are not authentic; we have spent our very essence on the altar of self.
You know this. But it helps, it truly helps, to hear it spelled out. So keep reading to see what can be done.
What Must We Do To Change Things for the Better?
Today we hear the Lord proclaim in the Gospel that Isaiah’s prophecy of the New Covenant is fulfilled in Him and we who benefit from looking back over the span of history know this to be true. But our behavior suggests that either we do not believe it to be so, that we trust too little in the words of Christ or that we simply do not care.
It is easy to become discouraged. If we are not faithful, we can even fall into despair. If we are enslaved to sin, it is easy to give up. In your heart of hearts you know things are bad and you would truly like things to improve. So what should we do in these times that have been given to us? How can we turn ourselves and the world around and get on the right path?
- First – Remember that Jesus Christ came to rescue us from sin and its division. He is in charge and we who obey Him are under His care. Be not afraid. Be not afraid to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. Trust in the Lord always. Remain in Him in prayer and sacrament. I mean it. These are not simply nice words. They reflect a reality and have force. Wait and see what St. Paul has to say in the last bullet point!
- Second – Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and called each of us to be responsible members of that Kingdom. He gave us a new beginning at personal holiness and holiness as a people. The solution to our problems begins with each of us. Only from our personal conversion (conformed to His love) will come the transformation of society. Political parties are not our salvation, Jesus is. Be involved with proclaiming the Gospel to the captives, the blind and the oppressed. It is not only material matters, but also spiritual matters that should concern us. But remember that no matter how much we abhor the conditions of our times and how hard we work for change, God’s change will come through us only to the extent that we surrender in trust and obedience to Him.
- Third – We cannot sit idly by while so many suffer and die. Our feelings of compassion must lead each of us to acts of mercy… for the unborn, for the elderly, for the vulnerable, for the hungry and the naked and homeless… for those who are alone, for those who are ill, for those who are captive. We must work within our society for true justice. We are made for heaven, but our present place is in this world. We must embrace this reality and call upon the Lord to guide us as we seek both our personal sanctity and the fulfillment of our duties and responsibilities as members of society. These responsibilities bring with them the difficult choices before us to get our fiscal house in order. Whether you are for limited government or expanded government, it is immoral to spend beyond our means today and saddle future generations with our debt which they have no hope of paying off. We can help no one if we are bankrupt.
- Fourth – We must teach our children of the great gift that Jesus has announced and pass on to them the sense of responsibility that is needed. Monitor and limit your children’s access to TV, music and internet. Teach them to love and honor the Lord and one another. Teach them manners and civility, honor and fidelity. Teach them to live simply. Teach them the value of work and sacrifice. Don’t forget, if our children see us practicing the virtues joyfully and faithfully, our words of wisdom will not appear to them as hollow lies.
- Lastly – In today’s first reading at Holy Mass from Nehemiah, we hear the instruction that we must take to our hearts if we are to find strength, peace and the power to make a difference. Do not allow discouragement to lead to despair. Fix your resolve and hope in the Lord, “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” Friday was the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Let his words strengthen your resolve, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Into the deep…
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Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears each Sunday.
Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.
He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.
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