Brothers and sisters,
In the first reading for Sunday, June 21, we heard the lament of the prophet Jeremiah, “Terror on every side.” In some ways, those words feel like an appropriate way to describe our world right now. We are in an ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical and economic toll it is taking on people’s lives. We are also witnessing widespread civil unrest as people speak out against the evil of racism and the way it continues to plague our country and our world. All of this comes in the midst of great political division and social and ideological confusion. Rather than helping to heal wounds of the past and present, we are driving ourselves further apart.
As we thank God for religious liberty during Religious Freedom Week, we must realize the great need of our nation, which has been a beacon of hope for religious liberty throughout the world. We have to help our country to heal by including God, not excluding him, by asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate our conscience, individual and communal, so God’s light can shine. It could become commonplace to wake up with a feeling of “terror on every side” and even dread, if we do not listen and act with charity towards one another. As Pope Francis recently said to the American people, “Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
As followers of Jesus, we must resist the temptation to see only the darkness around us by remembering that Christ is the Light of the World. We intentionally reject the impulse to give up hope and live in fear by calling to mind the most frequent command of the Bible, “Be not afraid.” We must do as Jesus taught, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
This is no easy task and we are being called to commit to pray and work at mutual understanding. Thankfully, we have a strong tradition within the Catholic Church to guide us through times like these. Specifically, I call on all of us to pray, fast and give alms to promote peace in our own lives and in our world. While we tend to think of these as Lenten disciplines, the truth is throughout the history of the church, they have been practiced at all times of the year, especially in times of trial. Here are just a few practical ways that you might pray, fast and give alms for our world today.
Pray a litany to St. Joseph, for people who have lost their jobs or businesses as a result of the pandemic. The Litany to St. Joseph, available at gbdioc.org/stjoseph, will be a big help in this. Offer a rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet for people who have suffered as a result of discrimination. Pray for the healing of the “wounds of sin” that, if not healed, treat other people like commodities, not sons and daughters of God.
Fast from speaking or posting on a particular issue and instead take time to truly listen to what someone else has to say, especially if it is someone with whom you tend to disagree. Fast from complaining about the world and ask God to help you see the good. Offer a meal or your favorite food to be in solidarity with the many people in the world who have no idea where their next meal will come from.
Donate to your favorite charity, especially those who have special care for the oppressed, people of color, for immigrants, for other people in grave need.
These are just a few suggestions that came to my mind. I know that you can come up with others that work best for you. I strongly suggest you make these disciplines daily and weekly habits in your life this summer, especially as we reopen more in the next weeks and are able to see the great needs around us. The only way around fear is through it, and God is with us as he promised in this journey from ignorance to wisdom, from anger and hatred to love and charity.
St. Joseph, “terror of daemons,” pray for us. Holy Spirit, help heal our land and the world and please renew the face of the earth with your love and peace!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.