What do we focus on?
Many of us pick up the news first thing in the morning when we’re just getting going, and then again in the evening when we’re tired from a long day. At those vulnerable moments, where do we focus? The news tends to focus our attention on the worst possible things that have happened in the past 24 hours, and we often follow that lead.
I’m not suggesting, by any means, that we ignore the bad things that happen. The world is full of brokenness, and Jesus calls us to provide remedies for that brokenness. We can’t provide remedies if we don’t know what needs to be fixed.
But the Scriptures for this week challenge us with a question: What do we focus on?
We hear about St. Stephen, one of the first deacons. He was being accused before the Sanhedrin, and then stoned by an angry mob. Stephen was aware of these things, but he didn’t focus on them. He’s a perfect example of what we read in Psalm 119: “Though princes meet and talk against me, your servant meditates on your statutes.” Stephen saw the heavens opened up, and he focused on Jesus. Because he focused on Jesus, he was able to follow Jesus: He asked forgiveness for those who were killing him, including a young man named Saul.
We also hear about Ananias, an early Christian, who was told by God to go and find the blinded Saul and minister to him. Saul had come to Damascus to persecute Christians. Ananias was aware of Saul’s history and of his own fear. But he focused on what the Lord told him to do. He went. Saul was converted and became one of the great missionaries of the early Church.
In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke tells us that a severe persecution of the Church broke out in Jerusalem. But he tells us two other things. 1) As a result of the persecution, the disciples fled to other towns and preached the Gospel there. 2) The whole Church was at peace. Luke didn’t ignore the bad things that were happening. But he didn’t focus there, either. And he doesn’t allow us to focus there. He draws our attention to something else: to the good fruit of the suffering, and the peace that the Holy Spirit gives in the midst of it.
All week long the Scriptures are providing a challenge and a lesson for us. We tend to let the media focus our attention on the bad things that are happening in the world. There certainly are bad things happening. But if we listen to the Scriptures and learn their lesson, there might be better things on which to focus.