The awakening of the spirit begins with one's own heart


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July 2, 2012

Canada Day comes this year in the wake of the body parts of a murdered young foreign student being mailed to various organizations and of the apparently cold-blooded murder of three security company employees in Edmonton. Such incidents are not typical of Canadian reality; however, they are flagrant examples of an increasing ferocity in what once was known as the peaceable kingdom.

Canada Day also comes in the wake of a B.C. court decision that says assisted suicide and euthanasia should be legal – that while it is not OK to violently take someone else's life, the law ought to permit people to help others to kill themselves.

Canada is becoming an increasingly anonymous society in which the exercise of uninhibited individual freedom is often held to be the highest good. With anonymity and isolation, too often comes violence.

Governments, meanwhile, have forsaken responsibility for the moral culture of the country. They busy themselves with budgets and bureaucracy, but are at a loss to deal with the real ills of the culture. George Grant, the late Canadian philosopher of religion and technology, maintained that it will take centuries to restore Christianity to a position of authority.

Ours is a society without direction, a society that seemingly does not want a direction other than to allow isolated individuals to pursue their own karma. If this results in an over-riding banality and the detachment of all but a few from a pursuit of the common good, so be it.

The purpose of the Church in Western society, Pope Benedict once said, is that of "keeping the world awake to God." "Awake" is the right word. Society has not so much rejected the Transcendent as forgotten it. One can never totally forget, however. The desire for God is the central yearning of the human heart.

But in our obsession with doing and having, we slide away from the stance of silence and wonder in the face of existence. When the awareness of all being as a gift evaporates, so too does our humanity.

Out of a barren existence, violence emerges and grows. If I don't see life as a gift, I can only see it as mine to grab and control. If I don't have what I want, I can take it from someone who does have it.

The Church soon launches its Year of Faith, a time for making the New Evangelization a greater reality. In our context, the New Evangelization must go deeper than making new Christians, as important as that is. It must, as the pope suggests, awaken whole societies to the reality of God, to the need to replace violence with gratitude.

This is a tall order in a spiritually tone deaf society. Success will not come easily. Nor will it come from the edicts of legislators. The awakening of the Spirit is the project of each person, called to nurture and live out of the hope that lies at the centre of each person's heart.