|Illustration copyright 2014 by Leighton Drake|
Horrific acts of barbarism, rampant terrorism, intense Christian persecution, government control and manipulation, the twisting of the meaning of marriage, plane crashes, celebrity suicide, beloved entertainment icons falling from grace--- much of the news has been dismal at best.
Add to these personal tragedies and trials, and family struggles, and we find the recipe for despair. (Of course, the media perpetuates this because there is so much coverage of the bad news stories as they draw our attention and stir our emotions.)
What does one hold onto in the face of such distressing news?
I am no psychologist (I can barely spell the word). But I know that to despair means to lose hope. And I know how important hope is.
I received the theological virtue of hope at my baptism twenty years ago. Along with faith and love.
Growing these virtues in myself is not a passive affair.
This new year, I am resolved to more closely hold onto this wise counsel from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb 12:1-3, RSV. Note: It is beneficial to read on to chapter thirteen.)The thing is, Jesus is our hope. And Jesus showed us how to live by walking, by moving forward. His whole life was a journeying to the holy city, Jerusalem, the home of the Temple.
Sometimes I am tempted to think this is my permanent home, that I am supposed to drop anchor here in this turbulent sea.
We are reminded in the Salve Regina that we journey, in this life, through a "valley of tears."
But the psalmist reminds us that we are to fear no evil as we walk through the valley that is darkened by the shadows of death (cf. Ps 23).
Where do we turn?
I read somewhere a quote by Abraham Lincoln: "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."
This should be our daily reality. Don't we--- if we are honest with ourselves--- struggle with fear every day of our lives, to some degree?
I am personally challenged by the words of Blessed Charles de Foucauld:
Complete freedom from fear is one of those things we owe wholly to our Lord.Fear debilitates us and prevents us from serving Him and others in joyful response to His love.
To fear the evils of this world is to forget that goodness prevails over evil, that the light has overcome the darkness (cf. John 1:5), that life is more powerful than death, that ultimately love wins. We must remember that "perfect love casts out all fear" (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). The more we abide in God, the more we are formed in love, the less fear will dominate us.
"Jesus, I trust in You," is a most apt prayer in face of the temptation to fear.
And we have to face it: We Christians have a responsibility, a duty, to be joyful witnesses to the Resurrection. If we don't do it, who will? "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" ask the angels at the tomb (cf. Lk 24:5). We cannot afford to give in to despair.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, a most beautiful witness by her life to the Resurrection, counseled,
Don't give in to discouragement... if you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people's opinions. Be obedient to truth. For with humble obedience, you will never be disturbed.This life is a travail. There is no getting around that. But we know the truth. We know the truth personally. We know Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6).
May God grant that we travel the road led by faith and hope, ever driven by the power of love.
Then one day we may borrow words from Tolkien, put into the mouth of a tired and true Bilbo Baggins, and speak them to our progeny:
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.
(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King)
Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.