The world we live in is broken. The Fall has wounded us deeply and those wounds and sins tend to fester and grow as we live in community with one another. Anyone who has paid much attention to world news is aware that these wounds cause massive bloodshed on a daily basis. Anger and violence beget more anger and violence. “We” blame “them” and “they” blame “us”, and so continues the cycle of dehumanizing and relegating other human beings to “other.” This labeling of others into “us versus them” always leads to horrendous injustice, bloodshed, pain, and suffering. It is to ignore the ontological realities that bind us together.
We all share the same nature, the same Creator, and the same opportunity for salvation extended by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That salvation is not limited by our own vilification of another group of people. In doing so, we end up limiting the limitless gift of grace and divine life that has been given to us through the Paschal Mystery. When we focus on blaming others, we ignore our call to bring the entire world into conformation with the Blessed Trinity. It is not “them”, it is you and me who are the problem.
Christ tells us to grow in holiness first
It is part of our fallen nature to see the failings of our neighbor well before we see our own. It is easier to point out an error to our spouse, children, co-worker, family member, friend, or even a complete stranger, than it is to look deep into our own hearts. The fact-of-the-matter is, Christ told us to look to our own failings first before we begin to help those around us with their weaknesses, proclivities, and sins.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.
We are incapable of guiding our loved ones or the people around us when we are blinded and enslaved by our own sins. Parents are particularly aware of this truth.
It is a law in parenting that our children will pick up on our worst traits. We can work diligently at teaching our child the virtues, discipline, and the good, but they will inevitably pick up on our weaknesses, sins, and faults first. In order for us to become better guides for our children, we must grow in virtue first in order to show them the path to holiness. Telling them repeatedly to live a certain way is ineffective if they do not see us living the ideal we teach them.
This same principle applies to our other relationships. We will not change minds and hearts if we appear to be hypocritical in our way of living, or if we cherry-pick teachings of the Catholic Church to suit our own sinful needs. Now, we are all sinful and weak, this is why we need frequent Confession. It is also why we must constantly point others to Christ and His mercy. It is only through Christ that we can eventually overcome our failings. The point is that we must be striving earnestly to amend our own ways before we go about fixing the rest of the world. Holiness is contagious and if by God’s grace we progress in the spiritual life, then God will be able to use us for His ways to bring about good in the world.
Screaming at one another gets us nowhere
Social media and the news show us that our world is hurting. This pain is being projected outward through screaming, violence, blaming, and an increase in injustice. The din, at present, is deafening. The answer to this pain is Christ and a life of the Beatitudes. Screaming at one another and blaming one another for real, perceived, or even imaginary injustices, will get us nowhere but further division. Instead, we must be willing to stand in the middle of the screaming and invite others to radically change themselves so that good can come of these divisions. If we stop looking at others as scapegoats and we take a good hard look at ourselves, then we can begin to make progress.
There is great evil lurking in all of our hearts. God will shine His piercing and cleansing light on that darkness if we ask Him to. Confronting this reality about ourselves is a part of the path to holiness and it is a deeply difficult part of the journey. We have to come to grips with the fact that we are capable of unspeakable evil and then fall on Christ, so that we can constantly be made new. If all we do is scream at other people and never look at ourselves, nothing is going to change.
Change starts with you and me
Most of us do not have the power on our own to end violence in the Middle East, starvation, violent protests, abortion, murder, sex trafficking, or a myriad of other great evils perpetuated daily on this earth. All of us can work within our communities to bring about change at a local level and bring as many souls to God as possible. In order to be effective in our service, we must be working in coordination with God’s grace to grow in holiness. We must be people of prayer, peace, hope, charity, patience, and humility. Our own weaknesses need to become our strength by the power of Christ.
These changes begin small. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we learn how to live the virtues. We foster good habits. We grow in discipline. The point is, we must be willing to put in the hard work in order to grow in holiness so that we can help others. If we never look at ourselves and only look at other people, then we will not progress spiritually. If it is always someone else’s fault and not my own, then we will fail to put one foot in front of the other. If we never darken the door of the Confessional in order to be healed by the Divine Physician, then we will stay trapped in our habitual sins, or worse, mortal sins that kill the soul.
It’s time to look at ourselves. In the end, we only have control over our own choices. We cannot change other people, but we can be a powerful force for good in the world if we are showing Christ to others on a daily basis. Holiness is contagious because it opens the door to the Divine. God draws other people to Himself through holy lives. It’s time to turn off the TV, step away from Facebook, and pray ardently for God to make us saints and then go about becoming saints. Only then will we see change in the world.