Deepening Formation

Rising to Higher Ground

I love complaining. I do it often.

“Nobody ever goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s always so crowded.”

“What’s up with that guy? He is always giving me that look. I’ll give him a look and see how he likes it!”

Or my nextdoor neighbor: “Look at her yard!”

I complain when things are “not right.” Or when things are “not the way they ought to be.”

If we dig a bit deeper, we may see that things are “not the way that I want them to be,” or perhaps, “not the way God wants them to be.”

Called to Take Action

We’re in a long line of complainers. Many Old Testament prophets were essentially professional complainers. “Ah! Rebellious children,” writes Isaiah (30:1). “Woe to me, my mother, that you gave me birth! ... Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (Jeremiah 15:10, 18).

I might be right. I may see something that is wrong with the world. After a good round of complaining, I’m left with a question: “Now what?”

helping a disabled man

Something needs to change. Maybe it is my attitude; sometimes I need to “let it go” and move on. Or maybe I am called to action. Maybe I need to bring this complaint to God and ask for guidance. What if God is calling me to make things right?

I’ve got some really important news for you: you, too, are called to act and not just complain. “It is the role of the laity in particular to transform social relations in accord with the love of Christ.” [1] Jesus wants you to be ‘yeast in the dough,’ raising up our society from within. True, we priests have a role. But, lay people, “conscious of their call to holiness by virtue of their baptismal vocation, have to act as leaven in the dough to build up a temporal city” [ibid]. Those with leadership roles in politics and society have an especially important call here.

Jesus Works through You

Dry yeast looks like a pinch of brown dust. Hidden in the corner of your pantry, it is inactive and does nothing. But, if it is brought into the light and mixed with water, suddenly it comes alive! Kneaded into dough, it gives rise to a whole loaf—baked into bread to feed the whole family. God gives us our faith, which is like yeast. Our faith is activated through our communion with the Blessed Trinity. Faith is a gift that is meant to be shared. Jesus works through active Catholics; he can raise up a whole culture through us, like leaven.

loaf of bread

So, instead of complaining, you and I need to do something. First, we are called to form our “consciences in accord with the Church’s faith and the moral law” [ibid]. That means prayer, reading Scripture, participating in and receiving the Eucharist, and reflecting on the Church’s social teachings.

Mrs. Rosa Parks got tired of being sent to the back of the bus. On December 1, 1955, she stopped complaining and took action. She was promptly arrested. Sometimes, this is what happens to prophets. Cardinal O’Connor was devastated by the high abortion rates in New York City, especially in poor neighborhoods. In 1991, he founded the Sisters of Life to be a sign of Jesus’ “beating Heart in this world, beating with love and compassion and tenderness and mercy for others.”


What about us? Does our “prophetic complaint” mean that we need to get arrested or found a religious order? Well, maybe. But first, what about that obnoxious kid in my class? Maybe he just needs a friend. And maybe that friend is me. Or, my neighbor with the ugly yard—maybe she just needs help. My help. In the next election, if no one is speaking about the dignity of the poor or the lives of unborn babies, then maybe Jesus wants to speak through me, as a “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

sisters helping sick woman

Jesus transforms us from the inside. In the Transfiguration, he shows us what the Father’s love can do in us, shining out for all to see. Let us draw close to Jesus this Lent. Let us receive him in the Eucharist with open hearts, that he may transfigure us into compelling prophets and zealous apostles today.

Reflection question

Consider your “top three” complaints right now. How is Jesus inviting you to lay those at the altar so he can transform them into acts of loving service?


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Love in Action

My friend Vin leads Kinship, a community food center in Milwaukee. He says jokingly, “Don’t read the social teaching of the Church. Don’t do it. It will ruin your life. Same with the Beatitudes; you’ll have to change everything. Trust me.” Read up on Catholic Social Teaching (also available here in Spanish). Pray with the Beatitudes. Let love ‘ruin’ you in the best possible way. Go through your pantry, your attic, your closet: share from your substance—not just your excess—with those in need all around you.

[1] The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, USCCB, #36

Fr. Joe Laramie, S.J. is the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer (the Pope’s Prayer Network). He lives in Milwaukee. He is also a National Eucharistic Preacher for the Eucharistic Revival and the author of two books on the Sacred Heart. You can find him at (@JoeLaramieSJ) and (@popesprayerusa).