The Economy - Just in Time for Lent
In the midst of all that is happening in our world today, God is reminding us that He is on the throne and we can trust Him with our future.
WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - Every day, the news is filled with the latest stories on the economy. These accounts do nothing more than fuel the fire of fear in our Nation and around the world. I am personally tired of filling my mind and life with a four-course banquet of bad news.
At the same time, we can't just pretend that everything is fine and all our financial problems will all go away soon. That is not only irresponsible, it is just dumb. Things are not good, yet the issue is not our current quality of life, but the qualities of Christ-like character and abiding, living faith that we are able to cultivate during these times.
As Catholics, it's time for a dose of good old bottom line Christian faith, which is also the goal of our Lenten journey, authentic conversion and the deepening of our relationship with the Lord.
In the interval between the Last Supper in the Upper Room and His Crucifixion, our Lord entrusted some powerful truths to his apostles; words that would later ring even more true after his death, resurrection and ascension. At one point he said to them,
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Little did the apostles know how much tribulation they would have to endure - both in size and severity. These circumstances, however, built character in the followers of Christ and were used by the Lord for the propagation of the Gospel, with Christians being dispersed from the Holy Land to all points of the known world.
Thankfully, we are not facing the kind of tribulations that awaited the early church. None of us have been thrown to the lions or covered with tar and lit on fire. Yet, we are in the midst of a tribulation of our own that includes, but is not limited to, our financial status.
We are also seeing the early stages of an assault on Life and against our Catholic Christian faith such has been rarely seen, at least in our lifetime. Greed brought about our financial condition, but moral corruption set it in motion. We are living in an age of fiscal and moral bankruptcy, with the latter being much more serious, as we have seen during the assault on the unborn currently taking place.
This is the time to do more than merely turn to God. We need to re-establish our relationship with Him personally and really... actually... honestly trust Him for our daily bread.
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It is so easy to become a functional Catholic Christian, going to Mass and performing all of the good works required like a spiritual "Do-Be." We are called to something more. We are called to a personal relationship with the living God that opens for us much more than simply a label we wear.
As we face these tough times, part of our Lenten vigilance is to again discover that God is on the throne. He is actively involved in the affairs of men and women across the world and throughout all of time.
During Lent, we are in a special season for returning pilgrims. We are being called back into real communion with the Lord of Life Himself, who promised to care for us.
First, to the jobless and those in harm's way financially, Jesus is reminding us that God knows our need and can sustain us.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?'
All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, 19 and all these things will be given you besides." (Matt. 6:25-33, New American Bible)
In the mid-seventies I was a full-time seminarian. These were lean times, especially if you are a Protestant minister who was married and already had one child. We weren't poor as church mice, they were much higher on the food chain.
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It was in this personally imposed recession they we learned to trust God. Often, just when our funds were about to run out, I'd go to my seminary mailbox and discover a letter with a check inside. A note was usually attached, reading something like, "As I was praying, the Lord put it on my heart to send this to you."
We learned to live by faith, watching our funds stretch farther, our food replenished by someone's over-abundant garden, and our needs met. I was studying theology but experiencing theophany. He was making Himself known to us!
Second, to those who are despairing about the circumstances and events of life, he is reminding us that we can find mercy and justice in Him. St. Peter himself gave this hope to the Church
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment;
And if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, together with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the godless world;
And if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (to destruction), reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless (people) of what is coming;
And if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people (for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard),
Then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,
And especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.(II Peter 2:4-10, New American Bible)
Serving in the U.S. Navy in the late sixties and early seventies, I spent the last year home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During one visit to the Navy Exchange (the Navy's "Wal-mart"), I had to visit the "head" (Navy's rest room).
On the wall an unknown sailor had chosen to express his artistic tendencies by writing in huge letters, "God is dead. Signed, Nietzsche," on one wall.
A few days later, I had an opportunity to re-visit the same head. The message was still there, but accompanied by a second message beneath it. "Nietzsche is really dead. Signed, God."
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We must remember the words of the psalmist, "The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven. God's eyes keep careful watch; they test all peoples." (Ps. 11:4)
Now is not only the time for action but devotion. We cannot remain silent or inactive while the innocent are being destroyed and the culture of death casts an even greater shadow. We also cannot remain prayerless.
Now is the time for prayer... deep, intense, fervent prayer. Praying changes more than situations, prayer changes us.
Lent is a time of both abstaining from some things while incorporating others. We may stop eating candy or sodas and start attending daily mass. Perhaps one truly helpful decision we could make this Lent would be to grant equal time to hearing and receiving the hope of the Gospel as we give to the latest reports on the decline of the economy.
Readings from Holy Scripture, the Liturgy of the Hours, digests like "Magnificat" and readings from the Church Fathers are just a few places to look. Also, take a look around the Lenten Microsite that we have launched at Catholic Online. There are a lot of resources around!
It's time to get some Good News for a change, news that actually can help not hinder; news that can encourage us to faith in the midst of our fears. As St. John said, "Perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online
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