It’s overwhelming how dark it’s getting out there.
How many of you have this experience daily? You open up your browser to YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter and see post after post, video after video, of depressing news about Covid, Trump, the election, the inauguration, riots, and all manner of unsavory bits of news.
Don’t forget, after those are sorted out, global warming, human trafficking, and poor international relations will be right there to occupy our minds.
At no other time in history have so many of the world’s problems been funneled into so many people’s fields of vision (thanks to the internet). People call this “information overload,” but it’s also “anxiety overload” and “guilt overload.” Each day brings with it fresh reminders of what is going wrong in the world, and implicit in the message is this unwritten question: “What are you going to do about it?”
I can’t be the only one who sees that invisible question. I know this because many of my friends feel the need to push articles in my face explaining that the election was rigged/not rigged, that pro-Trump supporters/pro-Biden supporters are wrong, that the Covid vaccine will save/ruin us, and that the answer to our economic issues is UBI/free-market capitalism.
It’s Too Much!
It’s too much, isn’t it? It is overwhelming. I’ve said multiple times on my podcast, Wisdom of Pope Francis, that as the pope addresses such huge issues, it’s difficult for me as a small, simple Catholic to wrap my head around what my responsibility is in all of it.
Yet, especially if we consider ourselves followers of Jesus, we must look in the mirror and ask, “Where do I fit in all of this?”
That’s a big question. But as I’ve tried to think through it for myself, one point has been helpful for me to remember. I’ll get to others in other posts.
It’s Not All On Me
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to provide for the needs of the poor among them. The “poor” were not abstract ideas. They had real faces and lived in the community. Any good Jew reading that order probably knew the two or three families in their tight-knit village that God was commanding them to give to.
Pope Francis makes the point rightly, though, that, in light of Jesus’ teachings, the poor we are called to take care of include not only those within our community but anyone in need that we are in a position to help. So now, all the starving children in Africa who we could help feed “for as little as a dollar a day” are our responsibility.
No pressure. Just feed all the world’s hungry.
That job and so many of the other very good things we are called to do as a community are simply too much for you or me alone.
Feeding the Widows
In the early church, there was a similar problem with feeding the poor. Widows, in that time, were some of the most vulnerable people in society, and the church provided meals for them. However, due possibly to discrimination, some of the Greek widows were being overlooked while the Hebrew ones were being fed.
The Apostle Peter was at the head of the church, and he says something that on the face of it looks like a repudiation of Jesus’ commands.
It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.Acts 6:2B (NRSVCE)
What did he mean by that? He meant that he knew where his place was in the community. He was called by Christ to be a preacher and teacher. If he focused his energy on personally feeding all the widows who needed food, he would be neglecting his vocation.
Even Peter Can’t Do it All
Instead what they did was set up the order of deacons, a group of men, to be the hands and feet of Christ to these widows. This allowed Peter to continue being Christ’s mouthpiece while the church still fulfilled it’s responsibility to help the poor.
“But doesn’t Jesus say we each need to feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty?” Yes! Absolutely! But how? Is it better for me to go out directly to the homeless person on the street and give them money or to give money to the charities in my neighborhood that understand the needs of the homeless far better than I do?
And what if I don’t have any money to give at all? This is the wonderful thing about community. The church has the responsibility to be Christ’s body in the world, but we are never alone in fulfilling that responsibility. You do what you can.
We Can’t Do this Alone
For a couple years, my life was overwhelming. My wife was struggling with mental illness and living in another town. I was trying to hold down a job three hours away from my home that I commuted to once a week. I would sleep over at someone’s house for a couple days and then come home after.
My extended family was watching our children for half the week, and I was trying to keep myself and my family together and was doing a pretty rotten job of it.
That was all I could do. I had no room or time for almost anything else. And the little I was doing – having a healthy family, holding down a job – was too much for me alone.
I can’t describe the incredible feelings of failure and guilt I felt. I was doing everything I could, and it was not enough. But looking back on those years, I realize now that it was impossible for me to carry the weight of my responsibilities alone. It was wholly unreasonable for me to hold myself to that standard.
You are Not Alone
It is unreasonable for you to hold yourself to that standard as well. You are not going to fix all the world’s problems. It is too much for you. But it is not too much us.
Find your place in all of this. Find your lane and stick to it. Consider what it is that you are called to, and please, don’t feel horrible because your are not Superman or Wonder Woman.
We are all in this together.
©2021 Catholic Anonymous