Christians, Where Is Your Love?
Well friends, there is no doubt about it, we have a mess on our hands. Our country is deeply divided and it just keeps getting worse and worse. The increasing polarization is bad enough, with the two sides (left/right, Democrats/Republicans) refusing to talk things out and find ways to compromise and move forward. This has led to so much unrest and awful, disparaging rhetoric, and has at times spilled over into terrible violence, especially within the last year. And now the cancel culture is showing its true colors with a very aggressive wave of blatant censorship that is guaranteed to make things much worse. The appeals for peace, healing and unity that we hear so often are simply laughable when the same people issuing such appeals are the ones driving these very divisive dynamics!
In short, this is a very un-Christian response to the problems at hand, and it is very un-American as well. Ironically, the "hate police" actually seem like the most hateful, spiteful ones out there. Apparently in their eyes, they can demonize anyone who doesn't share their views and use all the bitter, angry, hateful rhetoric they want. Somehow this is encouraged and isn't considered "hate" as long as the person using such tactics first labels the recipient as a racist, misogynist, colonialist, fascist or another of their buzzwords. But they end up using the same type of tactics that they are criticizing! Moreover, they want us to be angry, anxious and emotional since then we are easily manipulated and pulled into this whole mess.
How can any reasonable person expect this type of behavior to resolve differences and bring people together? On the contrary, this is exactly the kind of response that Satan wants from us, since he thrives on chaos, division and disorder. Check out this eye opening article to see how the Evil One is the mastermind behind all of this.
So, to the extent that you are buying into and participating in this toxic mess, please stop (I'm speaking to myself too!). Love is the answer, but it seems very hard to come by. It is so much easier to lash out at someone, especially over social media. Yet we know full well that this is not what Jesus wants us to do. As members of His Body, we Christians are called to love all people at all times, including those who are different from us. This doesn't mean that we need to agree with them or be best friends with them. But we must love them and reach out to them with mercy, just like Christ does with us. Of course He modeled this self-emptying, merciful love for us on the Cross and He lavishes it upon us primarily in the Sacraments, where we receive from Him so we can in turn share these gifts with others. Yet we must first be open to receive.
Therefore, bring all of your anxieties, frustrations, anger, etc. to the foot of the Cross and even more especially to the foot of the altar at Mass. He can handle it all. You simply can't. That is why He went to the Cross! So let go of it and pray for the strength to learn how to love those different from you, to learn how to see them as brothers and sisters, indeed as children of God. Then you will be filled not with anxiety, anger and frustration, but with peace and joy even amongst your struggles. Lashing out may feel good in the moment, but learning how to love radically like Christ feels good for your lifetime and beyond. Plus, it doesn't only change you, but changes entire cultures!
And let us not forget to look to St. Joseph, especially in this Year of St. Joseph (see my previous blog post for more on this Year). He is such a wonderful role model for us! Just take a look at the first two chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel to see how he responded to unexpected changes and adversity time and again. He did not expect Mary to be pregnant, much less pregnant with the Son of God, the Messiah! Then he was forced to go all the way to Bethlehem for the census when Mary was ready to give birth. On arriving at Bethlehem, he was rejected by his own people ("no room at the inn"). Then, after getting settled somewhat in Bethlehem, he had to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt as they became refugees in the land of their enemies. In Egypt, he would have had to struggle through persecution/discrimination, language barriers, finding ways to protect and support the Holy Family and loneliness/longing for his family and life back in Nazareth. And all this for a first time father, and father of God's Only Son!
Talk about working under pressure and strain! Yet his response is beautiful and powerful: obedience, humility, trust in God, perseverance and patience to wait for God's grace to work itself out. He could have lashed out at others, including God, and could have taken matters into his own hands. But he knew that the best path was God's path, and the Holy Family was exceedingly blessed and kept safe each time he decided to stay with God.
Ok, having said all of the above, here are two key action items that will help us to break out of this toxic mess and move forward in God towards true peace, healing and unity:
1. Check out this great short video from Bishop Barron where he calls for a national examination of conscience.
Then check out Sr. Theresa Aletheia's response to this video, in which she shares the wonderful national examination of conscience that she prayerfully developed.
We simply must look within ourselves, seek conversion and learn how to love more like Jesus (radically like Jesus) and especially to love those who are different than us. Assigning blame, attacking, disparaging and even "cancelling out" people won't change much for the better. In fact, it will make matters worse. Only once we realize that we are part of the problem can we become part of the solution. And, as noted above, all of this happens most fundamentally through the Sacraments. So make sure you are going to Confession regularly (recommend once/month) and attending Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days.
2. There is actually far more good in our world that we realize, and far more good than bad. What we see on TV, online and in print media often isn't representative of what normally goes on in our families and communities. So don't obsess over the news, that will only lead to more anxiety. Instead, seek out the good much more than you seek to know about all of the bad things happening. Do the things that bring you peace and joy. Pray the Rosary and/or Divine Mercy Chaplet. Read the Bible. Take a walk. Play with your children/grandchildren. Call friends and family members (and talk about anything but politics!). Watch your favorite movies and/or shows.
By doing these things, you will not only enjoy more peace of mind, but you will also be helping the Good to overcome the bad, the Light of Christ to overcome the darkness! See the video below from Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, of Mt. Angel Abbey for a great reflection on this.
In conclusion brothers and sisters, let's stop the nonsense and bring the radical, merciful, marvelous love of Christ into our interactions with others at all times, but especially in these tense times of unrest. Instead of lashing out at those you disagree with, seek to love and respect them. This sounds difficult, perhaps even scary, given the great resistance to it.
However, be not afraid. You were made for this moment! God has been preparing you for it all along. Now, you just need to say yes and allow His amazing grace to do its work within and around you. It will indeed be difficult, but the blessings will far outweigh the struggles. Never forget that Christ is "the way, the truth and the life." And He is the only Light to illumine our path forward on "the way," which is also the only path forward to peace, healing and unity. We can and will change the tide if we just stay close to Him! So let's get it done!!!