A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
The World is on Fire. Here’s What You Can Do to Help.
March 18, 2019
Even a cursory glance at news headlines is enough to plunge one into anxiety. Mass-killings. Inflamed, hate-filled rhetoric. Mutual mockery. Revelings in perversion. Moral debauchery. Religious persecution. Terrorism. Scandals. These are the defining marks of our age, it seems.
And that is not to mention the polarized cacophony of insults and vitriol that social media has become. There is so much darkness. It is easy to feel as if it is closing in on all sides. What world will our children grow up in? And what, if anything, are we to do?
Some call for collective retreating, protecting, and rebuilding. Others recommend head-on confrontation with evil through protests, marches, and movements. Still others would rather bide their time and do little of anything.
I will not say which route is best. That is up to each Christian to ponder and decide in the light of his conscience. But I will simply share this truth: Every disorder in the world begins in the soul. The chaos and darkness we see in the world today has its origins nowhere else than in the human heart. Should we really be surprised that the world has no peace, when it is so hard for us to find it within ourselves?
The Origins of Disorder
I would argue that none of the chaos in the world should surprise us in the least. Scripture speaks frequently of the darkness within breaking forth into the world through sin. Here are but a few examples.
"What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war" (James 4:1-2)
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good,treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
"For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit,envy,[b]drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:17-21).
It is safe to say, then, that it is not organizations, media, or governments that are to blame for the world’s ills, but rather unruly passions in the human heart.
Facing the Darkness Within
The evil and violence in the world, the chaos we see breaking out everywhere, begins within each one of us.
Now, it is easy to accept this truth on an abstract level. It is easy to look out at the darkness in the world and begin to place the blame upon others. The truly wicked people, the people committing sins and atrocities, are always everyone else. They are the sinners. They must repent. They must turn from their wicked ways and turn to the truth.
But doing this is misguided at best, and delusional at worst. For does not everyone, even the terrible sinners you blame, believe they are innocent and everyone else is at fault? It is true that not everyone acts on their evil impulses, and thank God for that, but in the words of Apostle John, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In the primordial garden, Adam blamed Eve for his sin. Denial of our own fault is not quite, but nearly, the original sin.
Whether we act on it or not, we all have the potential to commit grave evils. Sin lurks within all of us. Our passions constantly war against us, and often we find ourselves doing and saying things that we do not want to do; things that even we do not ourselves understand. We hurt people we love, we gossip and slander, we lust and consume others, we betray, we act selfishly and recklessly, we hate and will not forgive, as if driven my some mad unconscious force. Dark instincts lurk beneath the surface of respectability and conformity, but few of us face this fact—it is simply too painful. We would much rather blame others and absolve ourselves.
“If only it were all so simple,” said Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a man quite familiar with evil, in his famous Gulag Archipelago.“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
The Only Way to Peace
Yes, the world is on fire. But the most practical thing we can do is not vilify and blame others. It is rather to look within our own hearts. For if we do, honestly and unflinchingly, we will often find that the real battle with evil is within.
“The heart itself is but a small vessel,” taught St. Macarius of Egypt, “yet there also are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. And there are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the Apostles, the treasures of grace—there are all things.”
May we all this Lent discover the true meaning of repentance, for it is nothing other than weeping and grieving over our own sins, the darkness and evil within our own hearts. We are all sinners. We are all responsible. May we all cry out, “Lord, have mercy,” in sincerity and truth, for repentance is the only way to peace.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, (and to you, brethren) that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore, I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, (and you, brethren), to pray to the Lord our God for me.
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