“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times.” – Thomas Merton
Are you ever overwhelmed with trying to make a difference? Every day provides so many opportunities to do so much for others who so very need so much. On one hand, that is a great gift because we should never be without opportunity to fulfill the call to be the Body of Christ. There is no day that we would not have opportunity to step up and be the church. On the other hand, the multitude of demands, concerns and projects that need us can also be a major pitfall that seduces us into being overcome by what Merton referred to as the ‘violence if our times.’ We get inveigled into thinking if we just try hard enough, at enough things, enough times, then there has to be positive result somewhere. That sort of notion leads us all down a road that is destructive for everyone concerned. Destructive because we cannot possibly do all things, for all people, at all times.
Our response to a world gone mad with a violence of needing to be busy all the time, needs to be an act of discerning. Each day, we need to be engaged in discernment in the most intentional of ways. As I said earlier, the fulsome needs around us provide us opportunity to make a difference; we just cannot fix it all at once. But if we have a keen eye and a willing spirit we might discern who we can help today. We might be able to see, one person, one project, one concern at a time how we can be the Body of Christ. There is a plenitude of possibilities for us to help others. We become no help to others if we spread ourselves so thin that we cannot help anyone. So my prayer is that each of us may have the eyes to see where we need to be each day.
Perhaps we might begin each day with Merton’s prayer of discernment:
O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And that fact that I think
I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe
That the desire to please You
Does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire
In all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
Apart from that desire to please You.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always
Though I may seem to be lost
And in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
For You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me
To make my journey alone.