By Kathy Berken
The news is abuzz about Elon Musk’s recent takeover of the social media platform Twitter — and what that means regarding freedom of speech. Images and stories from the war in Ukraine add sorrow and helplessness to our already burdened lives. We are embroiled in news about censorship of textbooks containing references to “social awareness” and “racial prejudice,” for example, which causes some to question what we ought to be able to teach our children.
You certainly can think of more examples of how our world is changing by the hour. We may feel outraged and helpless. Can our faith in God help us alleviate the pressure? Yes.
Before the weight of these enormous social issues crushes us, we can stop and know that God is with us. The metaphor I’ve been using lately comes from a traditional Catholic understanding of God as omnipresent and that we are part of God’s creation: we are a drop in the ocean of God.
Because most of us are not able to solve the world’s problems, even if we wanted to, we suffer needlessly. Our faith evaporates, our hope dissipates and we can’t find love anywhere. The 1961 musical-turned-film in 1966, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!” is often our lament these days.
Like the book of Job or Lamentations, the weight of the world is overwhelming us to the point of utter frustration, helplessness and sometimes despair. We grow angry and don’t know where to turn, so we do and say things we may later regret.
Believing that we are a drop in the ocean of God is a start but we still want to do something. After all, this is the Easter season when the tombstone is rolled away and Jesus is risen! I suggest we imagine actually moving that stone of fear away by doing, as the Serenity Prayer says, accepting what we cannot change, changing what we can and knowing the difference. We first make the commitment to start or continue a spiritual practice that brings light to dispel the darkness.
Here are some examples: pray, list 10 things you are grateful for when you wake up each morning, delete social media accounts that are more negative than positive, donate money to places that help others have better lives, do one act of random kindness daily. Be aware of God’s presence now, take a deep breath and count to 10 before you respond to a negative emotion, send a card to a forgotten family member, exercise, acknowledge someone’s kindness, acknowledge someone’s pain. Forgive someone through understanding, drink more water and listen to someone with your whole heart. Rest in God’s being, close your eyes and imagine being a drop in the ocean of God and the feelings that produces. Have courage to remove the rock from your tomb of suffering.
Pope Francis talked about rolling away the stone in his 2019 Easter Homily: “Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the ‘living stone,’ the risen Jesus. We, as Church, are built on Jesus, and even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, Jesus comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones.”
(Kathy Berken is a spiritual director and retreat leader in St. Paul, Minnesota. She lived and worked at L’Arche in Clinton — The Arch from 1999-2009.)