For a number of years, I’ve followed Charlie Johnston’s blog. Charlie offers spiritually sound and politically astute observations and advice as we navigate these unprecedented times. His main message to get through these times is simple: Acknowledge God, be a sign of hope, and take the next right step. There’s profound wisdom there, not only spiritually, but psychologically as well.
Our hope is well grounded in the promises of Our Lady at Fatima, that in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph and the world would experience an era of peace. But it would look pretty dark before that dawn and many would lose hope, as it would look like communism had taken over the whole world.
So how do we apply Charlie’s advice practically in our lives to alleviate the anxiety and angst most of us are experiencing? What does it actually mean to acknowledge God, and be a sign of hope and how can we know the next right step?
Well, first, we need to keep things in order.
1. Acknowledge God.
This should be the first step in all we do, and the need is particularly pressing today in a world that has largely lost sight of, or outright denied, His existence. But what does it mean to “acknowledge God”? In simplest terms it means to admit that He is real, that He exists, that He has authority over the world. But what does that actually look like? Do you need to shout it from the rooftops and make a spectacle? Well, maybe at times that’s appropriate, but most of the time it won’t be that dramatic.
Think of it more like practicing the presence of God. Do you see him in others? Living in Florida now, the one thing I miss (well almost) about the north, is the amazing beauty of spring…as crocuses peer out of the ground, calling the daffodils and tulips to rise, and trees burst forth with buds and flowers. The juxtaposition with the dead, colorless winter is startling…and never ceases to amaze me. As we celebrate Easter, and spring flowers and trees rise from the dead of winter, ponder our God who makes all things new. Do you see and consciously acknowledge His presence all over creation?
Cultivate being present to all that is good, beautiful and true. The ugliness of all that is going on in the world right now has not snuffed out beauty…but you need the eyes to see. God remains in His creation, constantly renewing it. He remains in the Sacraments, washing away sins and raising us to glory. He’s in the smile of a child, the laughter among friends, the compassion shared in suffering and loss.
Whatever you’re dealing with, acknowledge that God has allowed it and has a purpose to bring good from it. Remember His mercies even in the small occurrences of your life. Like Elijah, you will find God in the still, small voice…but you need to be quiet and open to hear it.
2. Be a sign of hope
This step flows out of the first one. And the more you do the first one, the more naturally step two is accomplished. Once you allow yourself to be more present to God, to acknowledge Him and His goodness, to see and trust that He is with you and working in your life for good, share that hope with others. When the world is rushing off the cliff in fear, stand firm in trust. When the world is tempting people to despair, declare your hope.
We know not the day or the hour that God will act to put things right again. But with Mary’s promise at Fatima, we have great and glorious hope.
Cast a vision for your hope. Once the evil comes down and we set about rebuilding a culture of love and true brotherhood, not the false brotherhood set before us now of tolerating anything and everything, what do you want the world to look like? More importantly, what does God want the world to look like?
Start living that now. Abide in hope. Forgive and forbear. Help your neighbors. Be more present to your spouse and children. Give alms. Pray with your family. Simplify your life.
3. Take the next right step
This step may seem the hardest to grasp. What is the next right step? How can you know?
Well, start with the end in mind. Think of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Most of us have been praying that prayer since we were small children. They’re not just nice words and lofty, unattainable goals. Jesus gave us that prayer because He actually intends to answer it. It starts with us taking the next right step.
What might it look like if God’s kingdom came? How is His will done in heaven? What do we know about heaven from scripture? We know that God is on His throne surrounded by saints and angels constantly giving Him praise. That all tears will be wiped away there. There will be no more sadness or death. That there is a heavenly banquet and all are united in love.
So, let’s start there. Praise God daily. Worship Him at Mass and in adoration. Wipe away the tears of those suffering here, bolstered by your faith, and hope that God will bring healing to their lives. Gather with friends and family, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s such simple things that bring the most lasting joys.
Most of us will not do much to change things globally. We can make the most impact those with those we’re called to live and encounter in our own lives and families.
The next right step is often the simplest…but will only be the right one, if it is founded on the first two. Even if you mess up once in a while, as long as you are doing your best, just go to confession and start anew and God will use even those mistakes for your good and to accomplish His will in this world. Be not afraid…He’s got this.
Wishing you all a most blessed and joyous Easter! He is risen indeed!
 Charlie Johnston’s blog: https://asignofhope379.com/2023/03/11/the-seven-stages-of-renewal
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