Tuesday, 25 December 2012

hope for the world-weary

For a while now, I've had a vague but strong "uneasy" feeling about the times, which seem so overwhelmingly dark and so fraught with dangers unravelling in ever more unthinkable events. I'm filled daily with fear, sadness, disbelief - and so many cliche questions....Where are we heading? How on earth have we gotten this far? What will another five or ten years possibly bring? Can the culture change for good without first enduring some horribly, horribly dark(er) and (more) violent times? Do we have to hit some sort of a rock bottom that we haven't yet hit before we change? How is it possible that THIS is not rock bottom? 

When the fear and horror and sadness and tormenting questions rise up, I can only cling to the Lord. Jesus, I trust in You. I have to remind myself every day - all the time - even hourly - because I forget. Every day there is so much pain and ugliness to grapple with, it jars my brain and soul. I'm still sort of new to the abandonment scene. But I find peace only and truly in God, knowing that He can and will bring goodness and beauty out of anything. Anything. But usually His work is intricate and patient and....slow. I'm only human. I want to see much faster results.

After Newtown our president said the following:
"This is our first task -- caring for our children. It's our first job.
If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right.
That's how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we
are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we're
doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from
harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we're all together there,
letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to
love in return? Can we say that we're truly doing enough to
give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to
live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no.
We're not doing enough.
And we will have to change."

Beautiful words - true words. I read that statement once through the incredibly painful lens of the Sandy Hook massacre. And I agreed - with all my heart. And then I read it once through the equally horrific lens of the daily massacre of hundreds of children yet unborn. I agreed again. I felt sick both times. Then I read it again thinking of all the children who live in homes where they are abused - or who are hungry - or surrounded by drugs and gangs - abandoned by a parent - stripped of innocence at tender ages - neglected - molested - my heart felt ready to crack.

Our president said we are not doing enough for our most vulnerable, for children. He said - firmly, with conviction and passion and determination that we will have to change. Will we change? In order to meet our obligations to keep children safe from harm, to let them know they are loved, to teach them to love in return, to give every child in the country the chance he or she deserves to live out his or her life in happiness and with purpose, so much must change. The gun laws need a massive overhaul. And then.....many other laws and systems need a good hard look as well. If we are serious about this business of our first responsibility being to the children, to sheltering them as best as we are able from all that systematically harms them and denies them love and life and happiness, even at great cost to ourselves....We can start with abortion laws, divorce laws, decency laws, mental health care, the child welfare system, the education system,  the inner city "system", poverty, drugs, pornography, video games, entertainment media - and then go from there. So much in our culture fails children, harms children, warps the love that a child ought to experience and denies them the right every human has to live out a life of purpose. I want to believe that as a country we are going to take a brave look at these and change, as our President said this week that we must. I completely want to believe that we will not end up saying that "The politics are just too hard" about all of these issues. I want to. I believe he meant it. I believe that all of us were behind him with our whole hearts. I believe all of us were filled with sincerity and all that is best and most beautiful in us.

 But I find it so hard to hope. The darkness has spread so wide and so deep - even in to each of our own hearts. I find it so thick in my own soul - the materialism, the selfishness, the narrow views, the ignorance, the prejudices, the anger, the laziness, the clinging to what is comfortable and convenient, the lack of self-control and the often triumphing disinclination to be open to and cooperative with others who think so differently from myself. To hope has been hard.

This morning at Christmas Mass, we heard that "A light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." In the car on the way to church, I saw a small but powerful sign that it's still true - that the darkness has not yet overcome the light. McDonald's was closed. McDONALD'S. And every other commercial enterprise we passed. Without exception. I'm sure that somewhere in Bloomington, Illinois, something was open for business, but I didn't see it and it gave me hope: it was all because of Jesus, even if only mindlessly or grudgingly. Two thousand years after His birth, the infant Jesus has the power to shut down what is possibly the strongest worldly force in our age: American capitalism. Despite the media's ever-increasing usage of the term "Christian mythology" when referring to Him and His birth, the infant Jesus Christ is absolutely real enough to shut all those storefronts for one day every year. What other person in history (or mythology) can claim the same?

Thank you McDonald's. Jesus Christ is about hope. Christmas Day is about hope. And by closing today, along with all the other hundreds of businesses in Bloomington, you were able to spark a hope in me that has been struggling to stay lit. A light does indeed shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Nor will it. Ever.

Merry Christmas to all - peace, joy and hope to you.
(And yes, I think I am blogging again.)

Long lay the world
in sin and error pining
then He appeared 
and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope
the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks
a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees.....