God’s Zero-Waste Plan: Prayers, Works, Joys and Sufferings

God can find ways to bless us through every action — even the ones he merely permits.

Diego Velázquez, “Christ Crucified,” c. 1632
Diego Velázquez, “Christ Crucified,” c. 1632 (photo: Public Domain)

The secular culture has its own list of deadly sins and prominent on that list is waste. Every child learns the new ‘three Rs’ — reduce, reuse, recycle. We’re now used to sorting what we previously put out on the curb in a single bag. Sorting is even more of a way of life in one Japanese village where residents have to decide in which of 45 categories each piece of trash belongs.

While some may resent giving up plastic straws for the environment, reducing waste isn’t a new idea. The thrift of elders who lived through the Depression may seem odd at times but they’re actually imitating the Lord.

God uses for our benefit not only our exemplary thoughts, words and deeds, but also what we’d prefer to toss out. St. Paul attests to this in Romans 8:28. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

It’s hard to recognize after a particularly challenging day that God is the master of “reuse.” With human beings first on his list of recyclables, he finds ways to bless us even through the actions he permits but doesn’t ordain.

One example of this is King David. In one evening, he went from being a faithful follower to a terrible sinner when he committed adultery and then murdered the woman’s husband to hide his sin. In his deep contrition, David wrote the 51st Psalm which has become a well-worn path for generations of repentant transgressors seeking reconciliation and consolation.

As a young man David’s son, Solomon, asked the Lord to give him an understanding mind to govern God’s people and discern between good and evil. In response, God gave him unequaled wisdom, discernment and wealth.

Solomon used his gifts to construct the magnificent temple for the Lord that his father had longed to build. He also wrote beautiful and instructive words now in the Bible, including the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.

But Solomon was distracted by his many foreign wives and worshiped their gods instead of the true God. The Lord took the kingdom away from Solomon’s line and raised up an adversary against him. But he didn’t completely destroy Solomon’s legacy. The author of the first book of Kings wrote: “Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?” (1 Kings 11:41)

Despite Solomon’s sins, God continues to work through the fruit of the king’s gifts.

Christ’s Passion also reveals how God uses everything for our good. The Anima Christi, a prayer that dates to the early 14th century, leads the person praying to seek particular graces from each aspect of Our Lord’s Passion, including his body, blood, soul, wounds and water from his side:

Soul of Christ sanctify me,

Body of Christ save me,

Blood of Christ fill me with love,

Passion of Christ strengthen me,

Water from Christ’s side wash me.

Good Jesus hear me.

Within your wounds hide me,

Never let me be parted from you.

From the evil enemy, protect me.

At the hour of my death,

call me and tell me to come to you

that with your saints I may praise you for all eternity.

Our God who uses even his Son’s excruciating passion and death for our good also doesn’t want us to waste the suffering we encounter each day. The traditional morning offering encourages us to give him even what doesn’t seem to us to be of value:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.