Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 24, 2007
The new millennium begins to unfold
Eight years into the new millennium, how are we doing? Has the turn of the millennium made any difference? Did all the spiritual preparation prior to the year 2000 make any lasting difference?
Pope John Paul II put a great deal of emphasis on the new millennium right from the time of his election as pontiff in 1978. Later, he called us to three special years of preparation prior to the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus.
In early 2001, he issued an apostolic letter, At the Beginning of the New Millennium, in which he again affirmed the importance of the jubilee year. "After the enthusiasm of the jubilee, it is not to a dull everyday routine that we return," Pope John Paul wrote. "On the contrary, if ours has been a genuine pilgrimage, it will have, as it were, stretched our legs for the journey still ahead."
It is easy to look back over the last eight years and say nothing has changed - if anything, things have gotten worse. The problems of global climate change have escalated; abortion is rampant in many parts of the globe; the family has been undermined by same-sex marriage; the scandals of war, poverty and the arms race show no signs of abating.
Secular liberalism - freedom with no attachment to truth - has more and more established itself as the dominant religion. The list could go on.
But dare we say that we see a glimmer of hope in the outcome of the climate change conference this month at Bali, Indonesia? Dare we say that leaders of nations - even the United States, even Canada - are beginning to see that they have enormous responsibilities to the whole world and to future generations? It is not only the political and economic interests of the nations that matter.
Douglas Roche has enumerated other signs of hope in his recent book, Global Conscience, that show that even political leaders are awakening to the possibility that humanity can move forward into a new world of peace and justice.
The religious insight, however, is that spiritual transformation is primary. It is not the only thing, but it is primary. It is the spiritual that moves us deeper than just riding along on the surface of events. In each event, the saint can discern eternity itself.
This is the call to every human being - to strive towards sainthood. Not to escape from the world into some private bliss consciousness, but to enter into action with the mind and heart of eternity. To really be a saint. To really be a person of action who challenges the evils and the blindness of this era by being in an intimate relationship with the loving, eternal Father.
In his apostolic letter, Pope John Paul called for this. "Once the jubilee is over," he wrote, "we resume our normal path, but knowing that stressing holiness remains more than ever an urgent pastoral task."
We should not be content with a shallow prayer life that would accept mediocrity as our fate, but should become intimate friends with Christ, the late pope said.
In another place, he wrote that "we often feel ourselves prisoners of the present." But rooted in tradition, we should live for the future and see each moment as gift. It is only by accepting this gift that we escape the prison of the present. It is only through deep gratitude that we help to usher in the transformation of humanity.
How are we doing in the new millennium? How are we doing? Have we stretched our legs for the journey by developing that disposition of constant gratitude to the eternal Father? Have we searched for heaven? Have we given birth to heaven in our midst?
If we want to see societal change, we must strive for spiritual transformation.
But that spiritual transformation is no mere private affair, it must be liturgy and action for the whole cosmos.
- Glen Argan
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