Recently on retreat I heard a very disturbing statistic. The life expectancy of people in the United States has declined significantly (using 2019 pre-covid data). The last time there was such a significant drop in life expectancy was 1918. In 1918 the Spanish flu and the perils of World War I were the factors that lead to the decline. Sociologists today attribute the decline in life expectancy to an increase in deaths related to alcoholism (especially in the 25-40 age group); suicide; opioid and other drug addictions; and an increase in violent crimes. These early deaths are not from disease or nature; rather, they are “deaths from despair.” Why?
Although not something people like to acknowledge, Satan is having a field day. Two of his tools are despair and discouragement. There is a 24×7 battle for our souls. This is scary; however, there is a solution. Jesus himself came to fight sin and gave us victory over sin. It is important to remember that although God does not will pain and suffering, he allows it because of our free will and our proclivity for sin. It is up to us to cooperate with God’s plan for our salvation. We are all called to love God and grow closer to Him. By loving God, we understand that we are all created in His image. Loving God enables us to truly love ourselves and all those around us. So, what can we do to get to know and love God more fully?
There are many things we can do, and I will write about three. First and foremost, pray. As Catholics we have many prayers available to us. The rosary is a beautiful prayer that we can say singularly or with others. We can pray by sitting in silence and just listening to what God is saying to us. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and pray frequently throughout the day. If you are talking with a friend and there is a challenge, consider praying on the spot. An ad hoc prayer can be as simple as, “Come Holy Spirit; strengthen us and guide us.”
The second thing is to receive the sacraments. As Catholics we hold that through the holy sacrifice of the Mass, bread and wine are truly and really transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. By receiving the Eucharist, we receive grace. Grace transforms us and allows us to share in Christ’s divinity. Receiving the Eucharist is absolutely the best thing that can happen to us in any one day. Also, take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation. If you haven’t been to confession lately, make it a point to receive reconciliation. Confession gives us grace which transforms us. It is important to remember that God forgives us quickly (especially through the sacrament of reconciliation), and don’t forget to forgive yourself.
Thirdly, work to be a joyous Christian missionary disciple. As disciples we are called to make more disciples. One thing we can do is to invite people to Mass. The Cathedral has a bible study that meets twice monthly, join us, and bring a friend. Judge less and love more. Be a good listener. Comfort those around you and share the joy that you receive. Turn off the news and call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
These are challenging times and I am inviting you to combat the despair and discouragement and deceit that allows Satan to have a field day. Pray, receive the Eucharist and go to confession, and live the call to be a joyous Christian missionary disciple.