“Where are you, God?” many ask these days. He’s certainly hard to see in the utter chaos of today’s world. He’s hard to detect in the murders and butchery and blasphemy of those who kill Christians and innocents around the world. It’s difficult to discern His presence in the reality of almost 4,000 unborn babies slaughtered each day, often by the most horrendous means possible, by a heartless industry of death and conscience-numbed mothers. Many find it hard to see Him in the immorality which parades across our television screens and in our Internet feeds. People are trapped by the wounds of the past and God’s presence and peace remains obscured by layers of bitterness and worry. Where is God in abuse and corruption and death?
This is the world in which we live. This is what many people cry out: “Where are you, God?” That is the natural thing to do.
The Supernatural Thing
We are natural creatures, subject to the stain of original sin; it’s easy to forget our complete identity when we’re so immersed in the world. We are also supernatural creatures, sons and daughters of the Most High God through our Baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The world, the flesh, and the Devil want us to forget this and forget that the answer to these worldly problems of sin, death, and suffering, and our response to it, will not come from anything in this world. Our answers will come through the supernatural gift of faith and the corresponding works of grace and charity in our lives. The answers lie there.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. (Hebrews 11:1-3)
Faith tells us that the Triune God resides at the center of our beings. God’s very love for us holds us in existence, as it does the entire world. We are special. Jesus the God-Man pleads on our behalf to the Father and He never abandons us. It is we who abandon Him, through forgetfulness, habitual venial sin, and mortal sin. He feeds us with His flesh, yet we often turn away or grow cold.
Knowing all of that about our relationship with the Triune God, it is not surprising then that God can be found at the center of every trial, tragedy, and malady in this life. God cannot be the author of evil. Sin and rebellion bring these things into the world. God, on the other hand, being the great Artist and Redeemer that He is, can order even the worst of events in our lives to our betterment. This is part of the thwarting of the Devil by Jesus on the Cross. Even death has been transformed into life, should we choose to walk with Christ by faith, and not by sight.
The Roots of Faith
We receive the gift of our faith from our parents, or in some circumstances, we find Him as an adult through some other influence, perhaps EWTN. In any case, faith is a gift which must be nurtured by parents and by the Church. Solid catechesis is essential, as is participation in the Holy Sacraments, to lay the bedrock of faith. As adults, it becomes our responsibility. We must be ever vigilant to not expose ourselves to near occasions of sin that will corrode our faith, and we must be obedient to the path laid before us by Holy Mother Church. Only in this way can we have a moral assurance that we are running the right race, and not fighting against God himself. St. Paul reaffirms that it is not only important to make sure we hear the Gospel preached to us, but by preachers that have been sent by the Church.
But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all heeded the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)
Remaining in a state of grace by frequent confession in the sacrament of Reconciliation enlivens our prayer lives and our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist because it removes any barrier between us and the Lord. While the precepts of the Church includes a bare-bones minimum reception of the Eucharist at least once a year during Easter, weekly reception of the Holy Eucharist is the standard for many of us. However, many of the saints who have striven to live truly holy lives have recommended daily reception of the Eucharist. Padre Pio’s five rules for spiritual growth include both weekly confession and daily Eucharist, as well as spiritual reading, meditation and an examination of conscience.
Unless you are positive that you are in mortal sin, you ought to take Communion every day. (Padre Pio)
It should be noted that skipping weekly Mass, is in fact, a grave sin, and a mortal one if you willingly do it with full consent. It’s a sure way to interrupt the flow of grace in your life–and shrink or destroy your faith.
Faith and Works of Prayer
St. James was very clear in his epistle that men of faith have sway before God, especially in matters of prayer in the face of tribulation. He saw that God was hidden behind the various tribulations of the early Christian communities and that steadfastness in the face of those trials would be a gift that would help them to attain Christian perfection as Christ asked of us.
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:2-6)
In one of her television talks, Mother Angelica said that faith is not an anesthetic. We will still feel the pain of tragic events, but our joy comes from knowing that in the end God will make good. Perseverance in prayer in the face of pain, tragedy, and injustice doesn’t make it feel any better, but the deepening of our relationship with Christ through prayer gives us the hope that is required to endure. Jesus himself gives us encouragement in Scripture when he instructed the Apostles to stay awake and not fall into sin:
Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 25:41)
St. Paul in his exhortation to the Thessalonians expands this theme:
See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.
During the drive to work, one might also avail themselves of praying the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The same applies to the drive home. At mid-day, St. Ignatius of Loyola suggests an examination of conscience in combination with a prayer to avoid sin. Mother Angelica always used to recommend the “ejaculations” or “aspirations.” These are short memorized traditional prayers uttered throughout the day to keep our minds focused on God. These can include “Come Holy Ghost,” or “Eternal Rest Grant Unto them,” or “Jesus, Mercy.” (And the recitation of many of these prayers carries a partial indulgence!) There are many others–pick one that appeals to you. Some set their watches or personal devices to remind them to say a short prayer in honor of the Divine Mercy at 3 pm, the hour Our Lord died on the Cross. Many of the saints including St. Therese of Liseaux, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Josemaria Escriva (founder of Opus Dei) recommend offering up to God the daily mundane tasks, “the little things” of one’s station.
“God is in the pots and pans.” – St. Teresa of Avila
Night Prayer, or Compline, from the Divine Office, is often very calming, especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This includes a favorite prayer of mine:
Lord Jesus Christ, you have given your followers an example of gentleness and humility, a task that is easy, a burden that is light. Accept the prayers and work of this day, and give us the rest that will strengthen us to render more faithful service to you who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
As we experience chaos in the world and see the destruction and death caused by sin and corruption, sometimes it’s hard to cope. We often wonder, “Where are you, God?” Let us remember through the eyes of faith that not only is He with us, but He’s inside us when we remain in a state of Grace. Through our faith, He calls us to a life of vigilance and prayer which will open our eyes to the grander scheme and the unchanging promise and hope of salvation by the grace of the Cross. Tragic and ugly events can transform us if we see them through the eyes of faith, and can call us to spiritual and temporal action, including intercessory prayer for those who cause so much pain in the world.