Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 13, 2003
Don't turn your back on hope
We stand at the beginning of a new century and possibly a new era in the history of the world. The decisions we make and the actions we take will determine whether our society falls still deeper into the abuse of human life and the natural environment which so marked the 20th century, or whether we are able to carve out a new path leading to a society of justice and peace.
There is plenty of reason for concern. War looms over Iraq. The planet faces massive climate change due to human activity. Race war takes place on Edmonton's LRT while many look on, afraid to intervene. Gross disparities of wealth exist around the world and even in our own nation.
But the negative need not rule us. We can and must begin by building peace at home. We can strive to implement the serenity prayer which says, "Lord, give me the courage to change the things that can be changed, the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference."
In world and societal affairs, however, we must go beyond the serenity prayer. We must have the courage to do the impossible. Not by ourselves, but in unity with others and with God. In world and societal affairs, the "serenity" toaccept things that seemingly cannot be changed is the path to oblivion.
Helen Keller, the blind and deaf woman who became a famed public speaker, had the courage to do the impossible. Nelson Mandela, jailed for a quarter-century, had the courage to remain firm in his opposition of apartheid. Pope John Paul had the courage to stand against communism when even the Church's leadership had accepted the Cold War as a long-term reality.
The fomenter of impossible societal change does not just believe in God, he or she has total confidence in him. This leader experiences the cost of leadership – the loneliness, the rejection, the persecution and even the physical blows. But those obstacles only intensify his hope and give a stronger belief that God will soon transform the situation.
The most underrated activity in our society is prayer. We would rather do anything but pray – hold a conference, build a monument or throw a banquet – than take prayer seriously. But serious prayer builds virtues and opens us up to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And those virtues and gifts give birth to real faith, hope and charity.
At the centre of this spiritual life is the fear of the Lord. This is not fear as we know it – although in its early stage, it may involve fear of eternal punishment – but a deepened sense of God's majesty as creator and sustainer of all that is. Spiritual theologian Jordan Aumann wrote, "The gift of fear gives us supernatural awareness of our dependence on God and inclines us to rely on the infinite power of God."
The hope for a new era requires a vanguard of people immersed in prayer who are also determined to move through prayer to trying the impossible. But more than just a vanguard, we need thousands upon thousands of citizens who will not stand idly by when some people are beating up others. They will risk their own "serenity" for the sake of a better world.
To talk of hope without facing the grave injustices of our world and the cost of discipleship is shallow sentimentalism. But to walk away from hope is a march towards despair. We have just completed a century of despair and much of the world's leadership is driven by despair and cynicism.
But when we look at the youth of today, we can see many who are willing to face unpopularity, criticism and hard times for the sake of creating something better.
They see compromise of the truth for what it is – a lie. And they are willing to carry the crosses they have been given.
Life is not meant to be easy. When it is easy, it is usually a sign that compromise and despair have taken over. But when we take hope seriously, we are willing to live something greater than "the good life." That other way may be difficult, but it is a source of real joy.
It is also the only real hope.
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