We live in a unique and tumultuous time. I read today that numerous aid organizations are predicting that up to a billion people could starve in the next year.
Drought and global starvation are real possibilities. Multiple countries are on the brink of total, unmitigated disaster. As of this writing, 60 per cent of the United States is experiencing a massive, catastrophic drought. Difficult times have arrived for many.
Yet most of us in North America have food and shelter. We watch our movies, play our games and can easily lose ourselves in a fog of media distractions. But we should not ignore the serious nature of the times in which we live.
I am not predicting the end of the world. I don't think the world will crash to a halt at the end of 2012. But I do believe we may face difficult choices in the times ahead.
We need to look at our world with divine wisdom. We need to reflect on the serious problems now multiplying on our planet. We need to ask God how we should use our time, talent and treasure.
When facing issues like starvation, economic turmoil, abortion and moral disintegration, Christians need to be the light of the world. We need to find inspiration. We need to be instruments of the life-transforming love of God.
In Sunday's Gospel, Jesus says, "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." In a time like this, our external practice of religion is not enough.
The challenge is to let our hearts be renewed, to live in communion with the all-merciful heart of Jesus.
We need to ask:
'This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'
Is my heart united with the heart of Jesus? Am I just going through the motions? Or, is my relationship with Jesus the most important thing in my life?
As I prayed today, a thought came to me. I got the sense that God was asking us to "cover the earth in prayer." I saw an image in my mind of Christians all over the world praying and literally covering the world in prayer.
The first time I visited a monastery, I immediately sensed something was different. It was as though the prayers of the monks who had been praying there for years had penetrated the entire seminary, retreat centre and surrounding countryside. There was a deep abiding sense of peace.
What if we all penetrated our homes and neighbourhoods with prayer? What if we filled our churches with adoration and prayer? What if we all tuned into the greatest power on earth - the power of prayer?
Yes, there are a million distractions. It is hard to give substantial daily time to God. But St. Paul's challenge echoes through the ages, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Imagine if we Christians penetrated and invaded this world with deep, ongoing prayer.
Our hearts would change into the heart of Jesus. Love would prevail. God's divine mercy would reach every corner of this broken, lost and hurting world. We would be inspired to be the hands, feet, eyes, ears and voice of Jesus.
St. Seraphim of Sarov once said that if we truly found the peace that comes through ceaseless prayer, "thousands around us would be saved." This great lover of God and humanity prayed the Jesus prayer until it transformed him into a living icon of Christ.
Let our hearts draw near to the living God. Find or make a quiet place and go there to pray day after day. Let every breath become a prayer. Let our lives cover the entire earth in prayer. Bless all people with the love released in prayer.
Where there is prayer, God comes to dwell in a special way.
The hope for our world is to return to God with humility, prayer and a willingness to put the teachings of Jesus into practice. May we Christians humbly lead the way.