26 October 2016

We Must Resist the Temptation to Despair

"Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold."

Matthew 24:12

"Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all."

John Henry Newman

I have noticed that many seem to be discouraged by the current state of things, and the catalyst are elections that seems to offer only the choice between two distasteful alternatives.  I have the opportunity to speak to people from every part of the world each day, and there seems to be a common thread in the discussions.

We have been battered for years now by the repeated crushing of hope, and the impulse to reform, by the powerful moneyed interests of a relative few who seem to honor or uphold nothing but their own greed.  Every region seems to be plagued by some form of this brute selfishness and prideful corruption.

If I am being objective, and not focused only on the present day, I am profoundly grateful that I do not have to face (yet I say with hope) the obstacles that our parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents faced over and over for years.

They personally faced absolutely brutal world wars which slaughtered millions, and many of them were dirt poor in terrible Depressions where all hope was almost lost.  They faced industrial accidents and exploitation, child labor, enslavement, and powerful repressions by inhumanly sick men and women.

And even now there are those facing things such as that in the world as it is today, and if anything we should be appalled that we do so little or nothing to relieve their distress.  And, may God forgive us, we sometimes stand by while our own people may be inflicting these hardships upon others.

But we are distracted from all this, by feeling sorry for our own disappointments and troubles.

This is not to say that we do not have problems. This year has been so bad for us personally, and for others that I know from Le Cafe,  that at times I wanted to cry out like Job.

But putting our own temptation to wallow in despair aside, one finds they can rise above these things, sometimes with the help of others and sometimes with a slow but steady determination, and make things good where they can, for themselves and most importantly for others.

And that is enough, for it is our lot in this life.  Not to make an account of all the things that we do not like, that frighten us, that may potentially harm us, that concern us, that could go wrong, that afflict us in our daily lives like 'a thorn in the flesh.'

I know that this seems to be the opium of the distressed, and to the placidly self-content and self-absorbed as 'a folly' of the weak-minded, an opportunity to feel superior to the rest, to the '99 percent.'  This is as it has always been.

But sometimes God must first break a heart to enter it.  And it is what remains afterwards, when the crisis is passed, that offers us the way to becoming fully human.

And we are then called to stand up and witness to the fully human life, in grace that is given, not cheaply by ourselves, but by our resolve and determination to follow Him in our calling.

Where there is sickness bring healing, where there is despair bring hope, and where there is darkness, light.

Not in some abstract sending out of good thoughts, which if fine for a start, but more importantly in some tangible acts of kindness and goodness for our families, and friends, and acquaintances, and finally even for those who are undeserving.  There is so much that needs to be done, that we are finally tempted to do nothing.  But all we are asked to do is to begin, and do something even if it is only something little.

And there are many paths to goodness.  You may have found one, and therefore serve it faithfully. But this does not detract from or say that someone else may have found another, and they ought to serve it faithfully if it leads to the same loving heart.   This is not for us to judge.

Little acts of goodness spread like ripples in a pond.  A candle in the darkness allows others to find and ignite their own—  and then there is light.

"God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—  I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good, I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.

He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me— still He knows what He is about.

We are slow to master the great truth that even now Christ is, as it were, walking among us, and by His hand, or eye, or voice, bidding us to follow Him. We do not understand that His call is a thing that takes place now. We think it took place in the Apostles' days, but we do not believe in it; we do not look for it in our own case.

Let us feel what we really are— sinners, but attempting great things.  Let us simply obey God's will, whatever may come.  He can turn all things to our eternal good. Easter day is preceded by the forty days of Lent, to show us that they only who sow in tears shall reap in joy.

The more we do, the more shall we trust in Christ; and that surely is no morose doctrine, that leads us to soothe our selfish restlessness, and forget our fears, in the vision of the Incarnate Son of God.

May the Lord support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.

Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.”

John Henry Newman

Caesar was swimming in blood, Rome and the whole pagan world was mad.

"But those who had had enough of transgression and madness, those who were trampled upon, those whose lives were misery and oppression, all the weighed down, all the sad, all the unfortunate, came to hear the wonderful tidings of God, who out of love for men had given Himself to be crucified and redeem their sins.

When they found a God whom they could love, they had found that which the society of the time could not give any one, -- happiness and love."

Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis, 1905