In this video Fr Mark offers advice for when we are tempted to despair at the state of the world (or our own soul).

Avoiding Despair

with Fr Mark Baumgarten

A number of young people have told me that they can find themselves becoming rather depressed when they reflect on the state of the world, or the state of the Church, or the even state of their own soul.  Whether it be the various delusions in the culture, or trauma in their family, or infidelity in the Church, or addictions in their own lives – it can all seem too big, and beyond their ability to do anything about.

To this end, let me pass on a piece of advice that a wise older priest once told me, and which I found quite helpful.  It’s this: when tempted to despair at the state of things, simply strive to make Jesus happy.

If you think about it, Jesus’ knowledge is perfect, so he knows far better than we do precisely what’s going on.  And his love is perfect, and thus in his humanity—and he is still fully human, even in Heaven—Jesus has far more cause to lament the sad state of things than we do.  So rather than wallowing in our own despair, spare a though for poor ol’ Jesus, and strive to make him happy in the various ways we have at our disposal.

This doesn’t mean not doing anything about the issue at hand – striving to please Jesus may well lead to all kinds of concrete action.  But as a conceptual framework, it’s far more manageable than trying to solve whatever crisis might be getting you down.  And know that our efforts at faithfulness and charity—no matter how small—are pleasing to Jesus.

Maybe it’s getting to bed at a decent hour.  Maybe it’s showing greater patience with our siblings.  Maybe it’s focusing on something we should be doing, instead of something we’d rather be doing.  Maybe it’s taking the time to really pray.  Maybe it’s going to confession, and really meaning it.  And maybe it is volunteering for a charity, or writing a letter to a politician, or taking our vocational discernment seriously, or making a meal for the sad guy next door.

Whatever it might be, know that it’s not our job to fix everything.  We’ve already got our Saviour, and we don’t need another one.  It’s said that, at the end of each day, Pope Saint John XXIII would say the following to Jesus: “It’s your Church, Lord: I’m going to bed.”  I mean, if anyone had an excuse to get stressed out at the state of things it’s the pope—who’s entrusted with shepherding the entire Church—and yet despite this he had the freedom to strive to be as faithful as he could, and then hand it over to Jesus.

So know that it’s not up to you hold the weight of the world on your own shoulders—or that of the Church, or your family, or even your own soul.  Jesus is onto it.  Just try to make him happy however you are able.  And you might just find that striving to please Jesus will help you to be a saint.

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