“Do not have any anxiety about the future. Leave everything in God’s hands, for he will take care of you.” — John Baptist de La Salle
We live, like many generations before us, in a time of great anxiety.
Terrorism, political divisions, economic uncertainty, cultural upheavals, shifting religious demographics and the disturbing rise of opioid use and drug addiction across the country have left many of us feeling confused, nervous and irritable.
In a pervasively digitally connected world, young people are prone to suffer from constant anxiety. And it’s not just young people — more and more men and women aged 35-54 find themÙselves using social media more than ever before.
The effects aren’t pretty. A recent study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine links excessive social media use to a rise in cases of depression.
Like many people, I carry my cell phone with me everywhere I go, and I may spend a little too much time checking out the latest feeds on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I’m obviously not alone. Americans now spend, on average, between 2 1/2 to three hours a day on their smartphones. Every day.
Do the math. That’s about 1,000 hours over 12 months, which is the equivalent of approximately 40 days in a single year.
Think about it — many of us spend the same amount of time on social media as Jesus spent in the desert fighting off the devil. Christ devoted all that time to communing with God; some of us spend the equivalent watching cute kitten videos.
If you want to know why religion is losing ground in America, it’s not just the dumbing down of faith, it’s also the slumbering, lotus-like effects of excessive cell-phone use.
Now, I’m not a technophobe. I appreciate my smartphone, and social media has been a blessing in many ways. Living in a global community, our phones connect us with people down the street and around the world. Moreover, smartphones allow us to access near miraculous amounts of information (though what we do with that information is another story).
Most importantly, for me, my phone has helped deepen my faith.
In addition to a number of prayer apps and a daily email of Scripture readings from the USCCB, my phone provides me with a daily reminder to focus on Jesus. How? Well, I set an alarm to ring at 3 p.m. every day.
No matter where I am — a meeting at work, eating a late lunch or walking to the post office — that little alarm reminds me that 3 p.m. is Divine Mercy Hour, that holy time when we commemorate the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross.
This simple prompt cues me to take a few moments to shift my attention to the merciful heart of Jesus and silently pray to God.
I was first introduced to the devotion of Divine Mercy by a priest friend while enrolled in pastoral formation in 2007. At the time, I was considering studying to become a deacon of the Catholic Church, but after much discernment I decided that I needed to spend my time with my wife and young sons instead of serving the bishop of our diocese.
While I took a great deal away from those theology classes and training, it is the Divine Mercy that has had the greatest impact on my life.
The Divine Mercy of Jesus was revealed to a young, uneducated Polish nun named Faustina Kowalska through a series of apparitions she experienced in the years before World War II.
In these mystical encounters, Jesus requested that a painting of himself be crafted with the words, “Jesus, I Trust in Thee.”
In the image, beams of red and white light emanate from the heart of Jesus, symbolizing the merciful blood and water that poured from his body at his crucifixion. It was that sacrifice and the love behind it that radically changed the course of human history.
No longer were we a people separated by our sinful actions; we were a people connected to one another through love and sacrifice.
Those who meditate and pray with the image of Divine Mercy are reminded that God wants us to ask him to let his mercy pour out on all the world, that we should be merciful to others, and that the more we trust in Jesus the more we’ll receive grace and blessings in our lives.
As St. Faustina writes in her spiritual journals, which have come to be known as “Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul,” “When I see that the burden is beyond my strength, I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, but I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say to Him: ‘You can do all things.’ And then I keep silent, because I know that Jesus Himself will intervene in the matter, and as for me, instead of tormenting myself, I use that time to love Him.”
As an editor for a fast-paced New York publishing house, it is very easy to get caught up in the rush and busyness of the day. Having a simple reminder to shift my center of attention has helped me to slow down and reorient myself to the star that is Christ.
No matter what’s going on in our lives, no matter what troubles we may be facing, we would all do well to set a daily alarm to sound at 3 p.m. and then take the cue to quietly express our love to Jesus.
Now, if you have time to recite the Divine Mercy chaplet, a devotion based on the apparitions St. Faustina experienced (see sidebar), then certainly do that. But if you can’t set aside that time every day because you’re picking up the kids from school, waiting on customers or sitting in a meeting with your boss, you can quietly recite the words St. Faustina repeated over and over throughout her life: “Jesus, I trust in thee.”
When you take this time to focus on Christ, you’ll worry less about the pains and challenges of life and you’ll be reminded that we are protected by a God who perpetually wants to help us.
As Italian mystic Saint Padre Pio once wrote, “I have so much confidence in Jesus that even if I saw hell opened up before me and found myself on the threshold of the abyss, I would not worry, I would not despair. I would trust him.”
Really consider those words for a moment. Imagine having so much trust in God that you could be alone on the highest preciÙpice, peering down into certain death, and not be afraid.
Divine Mercy calls us to live like that.
Gary Jansen is the director of Image Books at Penguin Random House and the author of “The 15-Minute Prayer Solution.” His most recent book is “Life Everlasting: Catholic Devotions and Mysteries for the Everyday Seeker” (TarcherPerigree, $17).
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