Steven Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” tells us that one of the secrets to success is to begin with the end in mind. Covey did not create this idea, he just observed it.
Jesus’ whole life was based on this principle. Everything He said and did was oriented toward the redemption of the world and building the kingdom of God. His life and daily ministry began with the end in mind.
As we look around our society, I think we are faced with two issues that revolve around the cardinal virtue of prudence. The virtue allows us to discern the good that we are pursuing, as well as see the right way to achieve it. Our country has problems, but most people are good and are simply looking to live good lives in harmony with their neighbors. However, it is important to acknowledge that, in terms of our national history, we are not far removed from an entire race of people being classified as property and then as second-class citizens. I think this contributes to a latent cultural bias that plays out in our society that is not being helped in different ways by people of every race, creed or political affiliation because of a lack of prudence. There are no easy answers or simple solutions to the issues we are facing because they range from dispositions of the heart and mind to questions surrounding public policies. Each of these needs to be addressed in its own way.
So, the two questions prudence asks of us are: 1) Where are we going?; and 2) How are we going to get there?
The answer to the first question, according to disciples of Jesus, is “the kingdom of God.” In the kingdom of God, Jesus reigns with power, majesty, love and mercy. It is both an interior kingdom and one that spans heaven and earth; where we are no longer strangers, sojourners or orphans, but children and heirs of our heavenly Father. In the kingdom of God, everyone lives as a beloved child of God, societal divisions cease and “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
How do we get to the kingdom or help bring it about? Jesus tells us, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). When feelings of anger, division, prejudice, greed, lust, idolatry, etc., begin to grow in society, it is because they first have grown within the human heart. This is the first place where the kingdom needs to be brought about. When I look at someone, if the first thing I see is not a child of God, then the Gospel hasn’t taken complete hold of my heart yet, and there is work to be done. My own daily examination of conscience, prayer time and use of the sacraments are of great importance if these different spirits will be put to death.
Because of the wide array of issues we are addressing, I propose two spiritual works for all of us to consider.
First, fast for our city, country and world. Jesus says that sometimes only by prayer and fasting can evil be overcome (Matthew 17:21). Let’s not just watch the 24/7 news cycle constantly and expect things to change. They won’t. Fasting allows us to become hungry for the things of God and will make us weak, in order that God’s strength, wisdom and power would be made manifest. Moses, Elijah, King David, Queen Esther, Daniel, St. Paul and, of course, Jesus all made use of fasting as a way to confront difficult and/or evil circumstances.
Second, consider praying through Mary under her title of “Undoer of Knots.” This is a great image of Our Lady that is a favorite of Pope Francis. Like a little child who goes to her mother to help undo a knot that is too tangled, we can offer the complex situation we find ourselves in to Our Lady’s intercession and ask her to help us untangle the many facets that are at play so that we can see each clearly and address them appropriately as a society. Our society thrives on false dichotomies. It proposes things like: you’re either pro-Black Lives Matter or pro-Blue Lives Matter … say something and you’ve taken a side, say nothing and the worst will be presumed. The scribes and Pharisees used to try to trap Jesus in these types of arguments. If Jesus were to be asked by the scribes or Pharisees of today, “Which is it Jesus? Pro-Black Lives Matter, pro-All Lives Matter or pro-Blue Lives Matter?” He would respond by saying, “I am pro-child of God. I always stand with each of my children when his or her dignity is threatened, but not when they threaten others.”
So let us begin again, but begin with the end in mind. Let us pray that all of our actions strive to bring about the kingdom first within ourselves, and then extend it to our society.