One major difference between us and our predecessors is the amount of information to which we are exposed on a daily — even hourly — basis. Whether we are at home, at work, or running errands, we have a barrage of noise, words and images which expose us to many things, not the least of which is the breadth of darkness in the world. Surely there are “wars and rumors of wars,” but also, we see sin and depravity on such a wide scale that we can be tempted into two unfortunate responses.
The first response is to adjust our eyes to it and to acquiesce to the ways of the world. Being fed a steady fare of very bad news may cause us to wring our hands initially, but unfortunately we then allow ourselves to become dull and hardened. Making a tenuous peace with it, we say, “Suffering’s just a way of life,” or “Everyone does this now,” or “My previous expectations must be have been too idealistic.” Standards are adjusted, expectations reduced and that which was previously seen as dark becomes the new light.
The second response also begins with a little handwringing, but instead of growing accustomed to the sad state of the world, we become overwhelmed with it. Some are tempted to say that peace is unattainable, or that suffering is so widespread that our paltry efforts to fight it are useless. With this attitude, it’s entirely possible to abandon hope.
Consider, for example, the unfathomable depth of suffering caused by recent natural disasters in Japan, popular uprisings in the Middle East, and the drug wars south of our border. While it’s true that acts of nature, mobs and corruption are always with us in one form or another, those in the first group would answer with a shrug; the second with despair.
And yet Jesus taught us that neither response is appropriate for His followers. What do we do in the midst of overwhelming events? We love. And in particular, what can we do during Lent when faced with such trials? We love, with a particular emphasis on praying for the victims, fasting for those who have died or are in peril, and giving alms. Just as we saw after the Indonesian tsunami, we will be offered myriad ways to send our widow’s mites to help, while knowing that we still have great suffering here — in our families, in our communities and in our own country. Perhaps these need your support as much as those caught in the larger calamities.
The point is to do something — even something very small. St. Augustine said, “What is a little thing, is just a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing.” St. Therese of Lisieux made clear how each little action was to be performed: with great love. Combining these bits of wisdom should encourage each person to do what is possible — and from those little acts of generosity God will draw the necessary graces to make life bearable for those in need.
God well knows our weakness, our littleness. St. Paul noted what God revealed to him concerning this when he wrote, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:9) — indeed this is the great paradox of our faith.