“The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs…to be touched and healed by the beauty and richness of God’s love. It needs witnesses to that love. The world needs salt. It needs you – to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (St. John Paul II, Homily for 17th World Youth Day at Downsview Park, Toronto, on July 28, 2002).
The world is deeply hungry: for love, for justice, for peace, for Christ. Many of posts in this blog have been about searching interiory to hear God’s call. But a critical part of discernment is to reflect on how God calls us through the needs of others, through the needs of the world.
The world is a big place, and each of us is just one person. How can we respond to the needs of the entire world?
By responding to the needs of those around us and the people that we interact with, we are responding to the needs of the world. If each of us truly did our part to bring love, healing, and justice to our “little worlds,” the entire world would be transformed. In addition, we never know how our actions—however small—can touch or shape another person. As members of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, everything we are and do affects the rest of the Body. So every time we choose to act out of Christ’s love, our love has the potential to change the world for the better.
God calls us not just through our being, but also through the needs of those around us. All of us want to make a difference in the world. So how can we come to know the needs of the world? And how do we discern which need(s) of the world we are called to serve?
We can come to know the needs of the world in many ways. Here a few:
- The world around us carves us and sculpts us. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are people of our time, and we are each uniquely aware of certain needs. Our personal experiences, the communities in which we live and work, the people we know, the personal challenges we face, and the challenges faced by those we know and love, are already deeply embedded in us. What about our experiences move our hearts? Who are the people in our lives whom God might be inviting us to reach out to or respond to?
- Find a way to stay in tune with current events, if we don’t already do so. We don’t necessarily need to watch TV news broadcasts or read the daily newspaper, but we do need to find a way to engage with the larger world. Unless we are called to living like a hermit, as Christians we are called to be informed and engaged with the world. Going through a daily news app, reading the latest novels that touch on social issues, watching documentary films—all of these are ways to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world. We are particularly blessed today with a wide diversity of media that can help us to know about what’s happening—both in our own backyard and all around the globe. Each of us can choose a couple ways to be in touch with the larger community of the world, paying attention to those stories or situations that touch us deeply. Whether it’s orphaned children, the plight of a village that doesn’t have access to drinkable water, the suicide rate of teenagers in the USA, or the efforts of a particular community or group to bring about reconciliation between hostile groups—we will find out about situations of others that we feel deeply about. Bring these situations to prayer. When we feel strongly about them, we can take time to reflect on them and how God might be calling us to take action.
- Listen to the invitations of our Pope and bishops. Very often, the Pope and the bishops have their fingers on the “pulse” of the most urgent needs or the most neglected people of our society. Prophetically, they often point out disturbing trends that if not addressed, could spiral downwards into crisis. Their words are based on research, reflection, and prayer—and can be a fruitful source for our prayer and discernment. Often, the Pope can orient us in how to respond to a particular need. (If we don’t have the time or energy to keep up with the documents of the Pope or bishops, we can read the “news briefs” from the Catholic News Agency, other Catholic news services, or the Vatican’s news service. One easy way to keep up with the Pope is to read the text of his general audience on Wednesdays.)
As we listen to the needs of the world, we may feel drawn in many directions. But we don’t need to feel overwhelmed. The world—and all its people—are in God’s hands. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and Jesus invites us to participate in his saving mission. The needs of others that we are called to serve will deeply resonate with us. The gift of discernment is that we discover how the Lord is inviting us, through the situations in which we live and in the situations that we come to know about, to share in Christ’s mission of further bringing God’s love to the world.