We live in the midst of a society that yanks us in different directions. Newspaper ads call for us to see what other people want to sell. Rather than saying, “call,” better words might be either “demand” or even “tempt.” Society can certainly be recognized often enough as bombarding us with so much temptation. How many people buy things that they do not even need! And more than ads in newspapers tempt us. People we meet, TV and radio shows, and now even the Internet “tempt” us; and not only to buy something, but even what to believe and how even to think.
Why should we not simply admit that what other people and groups often want us to believe in tum runs contrary time and time again to what the Roman Catholic Church teaches? People, especially young people, are frequently tempted to live in a manner clearly unhealthy. So, the task for all of us is to find a way that enables us to stay focused through what is indeed a truly complex and troubling situation.
The first question to examine is to see what we are currently focused on, and perhaps even to ask what we want to be focused on. Are we focused at all? If we are not focused on anything, then we are living in a way not all that different from a pin ball bouncing off whatever stands in its path. If this is our current assessment of ourselves, we would have to agree then that we are very susceptible to any kind of tempting influence. This wouldn’t be true if we were to be focused on a positive goal that we want to reach, or a positive direction that we would like to have in life.
If we were to keep a positive “bull’s eye” firmly in our sights, then we are not bothered so much by the different influences that cross our path. Why would we? At this point we would know where we want to go. We know what we want and we are capable of ignoring all that which doesn’t lead to it.
God wants us to be focused on Him, specifically. This theme is found throughout the Scriptures. Just recently we have been hearing in the Old Testament about how God led His people out of Egypt. He was described by the Chosen People as a fire by night and a cloud by day. People reached their goal of the Promised Land precisely by being focused on Him in whatever form He manifested to them. Jesus in tum wants to lead us toward the goal of a better-quality life, beginning now and later finding fulfillment in Heaven. This becomes our Promised Land, the end result of our own escape from slavery into freedom. I repeat. Following the way of Christ doesn’t only mean that we may end up in Heaven someday. Rather, we start to see, to feel, and to know our freedom we get by experiencing God now. We can experience Him through His Graces of joy and insight by following Him devotedly with our whole hearts. But if we are to have such experiences of freedom, we need to focus. After all, how can we experience such Graces if our energies are scattered in a million directions, wanting so much as we do? For us to be open to the experience of God, we must first and foremost want God for Himself. If we do, then God Himself becomes our goal. If God is our goal, then we will decide to live in such a way that allows us to remain focused on Him. His teachings become our primary path by conscious choice. At this point nothing can possibly distract us as all we can see – is God.
Peace! Fr. Walter