The news has been anything but good lately. Political and economic chaos are on the horizon. With Katrina, Rita, and now Wilma, hurricanes seem to target this country more than any other. Drought and famine are the scourge of Africa, but they could spread dramatically if the world climate continues to change. Terrible earthquakes are occurring in many places, and such plagues as the Avian flu, whether of natural causes or concocted in someone's laboratory, are a constant threat. Scientific studies seem to indicate that things are only going to get worse, perhaps much worse.
As "the nations rage and the peoples utter folly" (Psalm 2:1), do we have any reason for hope? Should we be bewildered and fearful? Or does our dark cloud have a silver lining somewhere? Well, it does, of course, if we look at things from God's point of view. None of these things are news for the Christian. We have the word of God to tell us that these things are signs - signs of the approach of the Kingdom of God, and of the King of Kings Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to look for these things to happen, as St. Matthew records in his Gospel:
"Take care that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. For you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. Take care that you do not be alarmed, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be pestilences and famines and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are the beginnings of sorrows.
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and will put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will fall away, and will betray one another, and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. And because iniquity will abound, the charity of the many will grow cold. But whoever perseveres to the end, he shall be saved" (Matthew 24:4-13).
The power of the devil and his evil associates is at work in the world. But there is a greater power at work - the power of God, driving out the devil, and establishing the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ, Who promised to send us "power from on high," the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49), shall reign as King. We see Him already at work in the Gospel of today's Mass (Matthew 9:18-26). A father mourns for his child, a little girl of twelve who has just died. The professional mourners are already wailing and making their din when Jesus arrives and raises the child to life.
A woman suffering for twelve years from a crippling infirmity touches the hem of Our Lord's garment, and is immediately healed. Jesus knows that someone has touched Him, and says, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke, "Someone touched Me; for I perceived that power had gone forth from Me" (Luke 8:46). This was a common occurrence, says St. Luke: "And all the crowd were trying to touch Him, for power went forth from Him and healed all" (Luke 6:19).
Who is at work in the forces of nature? He who walked on the water and commanded the stormy sea: "The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over vast waters. The voice of the Lord is mighty; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf and Sarion like a young wild bull. The voice of the Lord strikes fiery flames; the voice of the Lord shakes the desert, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Cades. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests, and in his temple all say, 'Glory!'" (Psalm 28:3-9).
The powers of this world must fall before the Power of God: "Take warning, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before him; with trembling pay homage to him, lest he be angry and you perish from the way, when his anger blazes suddenly" (Psalm 2:10-12).
Who then, on this earth are the truly powerful? Those who pray with humility and perseverance! The humble Blessed Virgin Mary, states it in her Magnificat: "He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly" (Luke 1:51,52).
The Lord hears the prayers of the humble and the contrite: a suffering woman: "If I touch but His cloak I shall be saved" (Matthew 9:21); a trusting ruler: "My daughter has just now died; but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she will return to life" (Matthew 9:18); a blind beggar: "Lord, that I may see" (Luke 18:41). "For the Son of man has come to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).
Such humble and persevering prayer is essential for those who hope to be saved. St. Alphonsus Liguori comments: "But this grace is not given in God's ordinary Providence, except to those who pray for it; according to the celebrated saying of Gennadius, 'We believe that no one approaches to be saved, except at the invitation of God; that no one who is invited works out his salvation, except by the help of God; that no one merits this help, unless he prays.' From these two premises, on the one hand, that we can do nothing without the assistance of grace; and on the other, that this assistance is only given ordinarily by God to the man that prays, who does not see that the consequence follows, that prayer is absolutely necessary to us for salvation?" (On the Necessity of Prayer).
The storm is now, the calm of the reign of Christ the King will follow for those who trust in God and pray with perseverance. Let ours be the prayer of the psalmist, King David: "One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple. For He will hide me in his abode in the day of trouble; He will conceal me in the shelter of His tent, He will set me high upon a rock. Even now my head is held high above my enemies on every side. And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of gladness; I will sing and chant praise to the Lord" (Psalm 26:4-6).
These words of St. Teresa of Avila were found written on the wall of her cell after her death:
Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee;
All things pass; God never changes.
Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.