I don’t know about you, but I rarely get through the day without feeling beaten up a little by the demands and pervasive negative influence of the world. It is difficult to find peace and block out the noise. I am challenged to avoid committing the same venial sins over and over each day. In my weakness, I tend to rely on my own strength rather than Christ. These are the times I feel the farthest away from heaven. Does this ever happen to you?
In those quiet moments of self-reflection when nobody is around, I wonder if we acknowledge to ourselves (and God) our frequent tendency to blindly follow the secular compass offered by the world instead of the path that leads to heaven.
Just take a moment and consider how many times a day we are influenced to desire or buy something we don’t need because of an advertisement or commercial. How often do we allow work and our pursuit of an illusory “better life” offered by modern culture divert us away from more meaningful time spent in prayer, investing in our families, or serving our communities. Do we sometimes try to fill the emptiness we feel inside with alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, pornography, or a host of other sinful Band-Aids rather than seek the good and satisfying things Jesus has in store for us?
I am drawn again to the image of the secular compass and how it is leading us away from the heavenly home God wants for us. If we are honest, we will likely admit we allow this to happen through our pride, fear, ignorance, and lukewarmness. How do we get back on the right track?
First, let’s have a reality check and be clear about the issues:
The world offers celebrities to idolize—The Church offers saints to follow.
The world offers noise—The Church offers peace.
The world offers false dreams—The Church offers truth.
The world offers and celebrates vice—The Church offers a life of virtue.
The world offers earthly pleasures—The Church offers eternal heaven.
Second, we need to focus on taking clear and actionable steps to redirect our course. Here are five suggestions:
Practice detachment. Let’s ask ourselves if we really need “it,” whatever “it” is. Let go of the material things that are in the way of our prayer lives, church attendance, charitable giving, volunteering, and certainly our relationships with Christ.
Remember the Mass is about the Eucharist. Have we prayed to be worthy to receive Jesus? Have we thanked God for this gift? Have we prayed to let others see Christ in us? Reverence, gratitude, humility, worship—these are the key words to remember about the Mass.
Go to Reconciliation as often as possible. Sin has weight. Every sin we commit in thought, word, or deed is transformed into a burdensome weight we carry around with us. Do a thorough and honest examination of conscience. Where have we fallen short? Confess these sins to a priest and be forgiven. We should go more frequently to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins and make a sincere commitment not to have the same sins to confess each time.
Be courageous. Christians are meant to stand out, not blend in. Blending in speaks to conforming and making sacrifices so our faith becomes part of the mainstream…and we need to fight it! We live in difficult, trying times, but we have an opportunity to be beacons of light and good examples of Christ’s redeeming love. We will be judged one day on the fruits of our apostolate and hope to hear Jesus say the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Recognize the need for daily surrender and ongoing conversion. I learned early on in my faith journey that my surrender to God’s will and subsequent conversion was not a one-time event. We must always put His will before our own and experience a daily “dying of self” in order for Christ to be in charge of our lives.
Pursue heaven, reject the world. Heaven is our ultimate destination and not this place called Earth. Will our critics help us get to heaven? Will they stand up for us during tough times? No, they will pull us into a secular way of life that has little room for God and where materialism and popularity are the fashionable idols of the day. Doing what is right is not always easy, but in the long run it is clearly the most beneficial. Why would we not choose heaven?
In today’s hectic world, we are almost always moving and going somewhere, but are we going in the right direction? We will encounter obstacles to living out our faith, but we must be strong and overcome these challenges. If we are committed to following the six actions above, let’s also prayerfully consider enlisting the help of trusted friends to hold us accountable and speak truth into our lives. Remember our enemy and the prince of this world is the devil, and he will stop at nothing to keep us from Christ and our heavenly home.
“In former times, Christians were incited to renounce Christ; now they are taught to deny Christ. Then they were forced, now they are taught; then violence was used, now it is deception; then one heard the shouts of the Enemy; now, when he prowls around, gentle and insinuating, it is difficult to recognize him. Everyone knows how he tried to force Christians to deny Christ: he tried to attract them to himself so that they would renounce him; but they confessed Christ and were crowned by him. Now they are taught to deny Christ by trickery, because he doesn’t want them to realize that he is drawing them away from Christ” (St. Augustine, Commentaries on the Psalms, 39:1).
If this was the case in the fifth century, how much more true is it today?
Editor’s Note: Would you like to learn more about Randy Hain’s newest book? Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput) is now available in both hardcover and paperback through Amazon.com, EmmausRoad.org and your local Catholic bookstore.
This post is adapted from Randy Hain’s fifth book, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing) is available through Amazon.com, EmmausRoad.org or found in your local Catholic bookstore. Also, Journey to Heaven has been recently been translated into Spanish! The book can be found as Camino al Cielo: Una Guia Practica Para El Hombre Catolico on Amazon.