by Brandon Jubar
It's easy to become obsessed. In fact, it's almost expected these days. Everywhere you look there are examples of people living their lives to excess -- and it's not just going overboard with bad things, either. Drugs, alcohol, sex -- these are things that normally come to mind when we think of "excess". But even "good" things can become bad in large quantities. Studying is usually a good thing. In fact, most parents would agree that their children should do more of it. But what about the people who only study, to the exclusion of all else? Holed up in their rooms, opting out of all social or extra-curricular activities? Is that good? Or what about the athlete whose life revolves around his or her sport of choice? He plays football, watches football, runs a fantasy football league, kicks butt at Madden Football (and has the latest version), plans on playing college football, and hopes to go pro some day. Nothing matters to him unless it has something to do with football. Is that good? "I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me." (Exodus 20:2-3, NAB) Whenever we focus on something -- or someone -- to the exclusion of all else, we are basically worshipping a false god. Whether it is drugs, sex, sports, academics, or a loved one, the net effect is the same: God takes a backseat. But have no fear -- all is not lost. With a few simple steps you'll have God front and center, right where He belongs!
#1: Do Kind Things (Quietly)
Start easy by doing some nice things. Hold the door for someone. Take out the trash without being asked. Carry someone's books. Give little compliments whenever you can (e.g. "I like that shirt", "You sure know your stuff", or "Good job!") Whatever you do, never mention what you're doing to anyone. And if someone points it out, just shrug it off and change the subject -- then continue to do kind things. "...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14, NAB)
#2: Pray for Others (Daily)
Everybody prays when they're worried. "God, please help me pass this test" has been the #1 prayer among students since the dawn of formal education. But if you really want to focus on prayer, you need to pray for someone else. Almost everyone needs some sort of help or support or blessing, so put God first by asking Him to bless the people in our lives. The more you do it, the easier it will be -- and you'll be surprised at how it changes your perspective. By focusing on the needs of others, doing the kind things in Step #1 becomes much easier and a lot more fun! Since Abraham, intercession -- asking on behalf of another -- has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy [and] he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm. (CCC 2635)
#3: Volunteer Your Time (Regularly)
Once you're on the kindness kick and have begun to pray for other people every day, it's time to look beyond your immediate surroundings. We are all God's children -- whether we belong to the same church, a different church, or no church at all -- and we have an obligation to help each other. Ask your Church if they need volunteers to assist with their outreach program. Contact the local United Way for volunteer opportunities. Or check online -- VolunteerMatch.org is a good place to start. Donating your time and talents will help people in need, and it will make you feel good too. But best of all, others will see God in you because you are doing His work. You are putting Him first. "And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' " (Matthew 25:40, NAB)
#4: Go to Mass (Weekly)
This fourth and final step in putting God first in...