Two of my friends tell me to watch only 15 minutes of the evening news on television. They tell me that watching more might lead to depression or discouragement. I know what they mean.
Recently I was chatting with two people whom I had just met and their view of the contemporary world was completely negative. I mean they thought everything that was happening in the world was a complete disaster.
I wondered how much of the evening news they watched each day or what newspaper they read regularly. They were even more pessimistic than my two friends. I was determined to combat this type of negative, one-sided view of the contemporary world. What truth could combat this excessively negative view of the contemporary world?
Very quickly I started thinking about the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of every person and gradually my view of the contemporary world changed dramatically. Reflecting on the Holy Spirit’s presence in every person’s life can lead to a profound wonder and awe.
Catholic doctrine is that no one can grow closer to God, that is become more holy, without the aid of the Holy Spirit. To whom is the Holy Spirit present? Whom is the Holy Spirit trying to help, trying to sanctify? Everyone!
That truth of faith is amazing to me. The Holy Spirit is present to billions of people, trying to open them to the love that Jesus’ death and resurrection won for them.
Of course the Holy Spirit’s presence to billions of people, indeed to every human being, will not be mentioned on the evening news telecasts or be a headline on tomorrow’s newspapers, but it is one of the most important truths about each of us. We are never alone.
God is never absent from our lives. Who can guess what miracles of grace might happen because of the Holy Spirit’s presence? Who can guess what miracles of grace have already happened?
When I think of the good that is happening in the world at this moment I know that I should not allow my vision to be limited to only those activities that have a “Catholic label” on them. The number of people who are trying to make the world a better place is countless.
I think of all those in service professions such as doctors and nurses and teachers trying to help people. But also I think of parents who are unselfish in their efforts to help their children. I think of husbands and wives who resist the temptations offered by the sexual revolution and faithfully keep their marriage vows. And how about all those who do the best they can to live morally?
When I think of the Holy Spirit’s presence in every person’s life, the vision of Father Pierre Teilhard, SJ, seems profoundly true. For Teilhard, evolution was not a blind process that excluded God but an ascending movement toward ultimate fulfillment with the risen Christ.
In his book “The Divine Milieu” (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960, 144 pp.), posing the question whether our good actions will somehow be eternalized, Teilhard writes the following:
“Indeed, Lord, it will be — by virtue of a need which You Yourself have implanted at the very center of my will! I desire and need that it should be.
“I desire it because I love irresistibly all that your continuous help enables me to bring each day to reality.
“A thought, a material improvement, a harmony, a particular expression of love, the enchanting complexity of a smile or a look, all the new beauties that appear for the first time, in me or around me, on the human face of the earth — I will cherish them like children and cannot believe that they will die entirely in the flesh.
“If I believed that these things were to wither away forever, should I have given them life? The more I examine myself, the more I discover the psychological truth: that no one lifts his little finger to do the smallest task unless moved, however obscurely, by the conviction that he is contributing infinitesimally (at least indirectly) to the construction of some absolute — that is to say , to Your work, my God.
“This may well sound strange or exaggerated to those who act without thoroughly analyzing themselves. And yet it is a fundamental law of their action” (pp. 23-24).
I probably will follow my friends’ advice that I should limit myself to 15 minutes of the evening news, but I hope the truth about the Holy Spirit’s presence in everyone’s life colors my reactions to any temptation to be excessively negative in my attitude toward the contemporary world. Father Teilhard’s view is not only attractive and exciting but also profoundly true.