Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several disturbing photos coming out on my social media newsfeed – photos of young children allegedly being put to death by Iraqi soldiers (I can’t even get past the first one), photos of a young boy holding a severed head of a man, photos of Palestinians weeping over the destruction in Gaza. Even if I force myself to scroll down quickly and get back to the usual innocuous dose of friends’ vacations and daily habits, I can no longer “un-see” the images. It seems they are there to stay in my subconscious for a while.
I had managed to convince myself, throughout all these years, that the world had become a much better place to live in, that humanity had collectively learned from the shared experience of two world wars and was putting all its efforts in establishing world peace, that in this day and age racial and religious discrimination only existed in small pockets around the world. But the recent headlines and stories from around the world beg to disagree. The faces of suffering people and their silent screams on the screen of my laptop monitor force me to question the fate of the world and to confront the alarming and blatant rise of evil.
And I am left to ask myself, what am I supposed to do about it all? Obviously, I can’t just sign up for the latest overseas peacekeeping mission and offer the world my non-existent solutions. And if I kept reposting and re-sharing all those disturbing photos, it won’t bring back the life of those who were killed. I am at a loss. And, whenever I am at a loss, I turn to my faith.
Coincidentally, or perhaps providentially, the daily readings at Mass for the past couple of weeks highlight ancient Israel’s long, painful, war-ridden and complicated history – all these prophets complaining, whining and despairing over the death and destruction about them. And their solution is surprisingly simple, “repent and return to the Lord,” the prophets remind their people; “fast and hope in the Lord,” the prophets repeat to themselves, “wait and trust in the Lord,” the people say to each other.
And so I repeat the same to myself. For many people, I suppose the idea of praying and fasting is outdated. And many might even scoff at the idea. How does prayer really help, they ask. How can fasting turn the tide? I don’t have all the answers. What I do have are all these stories of people who swear by the fruits of their fasting and prayer. What I have is Israel’s history, tumultuous but hopeful. And what I have is my own history.
It seems to me that at this particular moment in time, I have a few choices. I can choose to be indifferent. Or I can choose to be anxious. Or I can choose to pray and have faith. I know, I know. Some people out there would probably think I’m delusional for believing that prayers can solve these current crises. But long ago I realized that to a person who chooses to have faith, everything becomes spiritual. And for a person who chooses not to believe, nothing really is.
[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]
About Nancy Unchuan Toledo
When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.