Fr Kleanthis Korkotas

When we look at the world around us, one cannot help but feel a degree of trepidation and anxiety. All avenues of social media create a picture of a dystopian world. Pandemics, wars, economic collapse, hunger, and social unrest are being continuously streamed to us. Fear and consternation have gripped our lives. I have witnessed lively discussions in which Christians are adamant about a course of action that must be taken. They often quote prophetic “saints” stating in detail about future world events. When asked the source of their material, they predominantly say the Internet. As Christians, I believe this to be a dangerous undertaking. It is one thing to be aware of the world around us, it is an entirely different matter to spend much of our time pondering the religious implications of presumed future events. The church has always preached against anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness.

If we look at events in a historical perspective, we will come to the realization that the world has always had troubles. There have been many catastrophic occurrences that has threatened to wipe out humanity. The bubonic plague in 1346 almost wiped-out half of the population of the known world. We have experienced two major World Wars. Famines have killed millions of people. As Christians, however, we have endured these calamities because of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The bible teaches us to have hope. In the book of Psalms, it states “Why my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalms 42:5).” Through prayer we place all our hope in Christ. We ask him to help us overcome any obstacle or misfortune we may encounter.  In Romans, it states “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).”

To have anxiety about the state of the world is not a Christian characteristic. Our Lord says, “Can you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life (Mathew 6:31, Luke 12:25).” To consistently agonize over life does not help the development of our soul. We must learn to give our worries to Christ. The apostle Peter states, “Cast all anxiety on the Lord because he cares for you (1Peter 5:7).” This is not easy to do. We all agonize about situations in our life. We worry about children, money, work, health. The Church teaches us that the key to help us with anxiety is prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God (Philippians 4:6).” Improving our life of prayer will help with our concerns and apprehensions. How then are we going to change the world for the better?  The Fathers of the Church have always been adamant that the best way to inaugurate change is to initiate it in ourselves.

There is a prayer written by the American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called the Serenity Prayer. It is commonly quoted as: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I will go one step further by saying that I believe it is a mistake to try to change other people. When we comment on other people’s faults and how they can better themselves, we place ourselves in a morally superior position. Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us about this when he states, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Mathew 5:7).” The church asserts refrain from making judgements. We must strive to improve our soul first. Then our actions and our very existence will become a beacon and create change in others. The preeminent example of this, are the Saints of the Church.

Many Saints lived during difficult times of war, famine, and especially persecution for their faith. Yet, if you read the lives of the Saints, they did not concern themselves with politics. Nor did they spend their time worrying about the economy. They even had very little regard for their own lives. Saints did not force their beliefs on other people. Their only distress was over the salvation of their own soul. The Saints had made great strides in the cultivation of their soul until they had achieved Theosis.  These ordinary men and women became one with our Lord Jesus Christ. Their saintliness became a magnet for people to emulate. It created positive change in the lives of people, societies, and nations.

Everything that has happened, and will happen, God has permitted.  It is not God’s will that evil happens in the world. He will not, however, interfere with our free will to allow evil to exist. No one knows exactly when our Lord Jesus Christ will come again, but God tells us to prepare. The Church teaches that preparation constitutes the development of our soul. If a Saint were to appear before you, what do you think he or she would say? I believe the Saint would say something to the effect of, “Why are you worried about the future? Why do you want to change the world? Do not concern yourself with these matters. What I want to know is-     How is your soul?”

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