Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hope and Sensitivity

I appreciate the discussion going on in the comment box below yesterday's post about the difference between despair, gloom and doom, and true Christian hope. Naturally, I agree with those commenters who think that simply discussing the reality of events and situations in the world does not mean an abandonment of the virtue of hope. But as Christians we know that our hope is neither in this world nor in the things of this world. God has not promised in any sense to shield His followers from the disturbing and painful consequences of the decline of the City of Man, but only to lead them securely to Him at the end of their earthly lives, should they remain faithful.

But I do understand that for some people, discussion of the sad situation of our culture is a source of temptation to despair. Though on one level they may both believe and accept that God could indeed allow hardships of all manner to impact them and their lives, they really do have a difficult time separating out their fear of such terrible things from their trust in Him. And I want to be clear: I respect that. We don't choose our crosses, but are chosen to bear them; and while I have no particular problem myself remaining cheerful--if ready for action--in the face of bad news like we've seen from California all week, I know that others really will become depressed or weighed down by such things.

I do believe, however, that it is important not to confuse God's providence with the need for man's vigilance, that is, to think that because God can do all things we need not do anything. God is, indeed, in charge, but He allows sinful man to do what he will, and when this is multiplied into the kind of cascade of evil that has begun to spill down upon our country, we can't pretend that we won't be needing some umbrellas. We must do something; if we can't take up the cause through some kind of action, or speech, or writing, or public presence of disagreement, we can all join in the first action of Christians faced with the kind of danger we are now facing--we can pray.

Some of us will be called, as a professor I heard once put it, to "get up off our knees and do something about it." But the call to active involvement against the evils of our day will not be issued to all, nor will it be the same for all. Some of us may find ourselves in the position to defend the Church's teachings in some wide arena; others, only with family or friends who attack us for it; still others, peacefully within our own homes as we raise and educate our children in our faith and in God's ways. But we are all fighting the same fight.

It is our hope for eternal happiness that gives us the strength to fight, whatever our particular battle may be. But as the oft-repeated saying of Burke's has it, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." We can't afford to pretend that there is nothing wrong, that as long as we can live in relative freedom and some sort of peace, however uneasy, with our neighbors, all is really well.

God is our strength. He alone knows how much He wants us to know about, or to do, or to contend against. He has planned out our lives for us, and we serve Him by following His will for our lives. We should not force anyone to take action, even against these ills; but we must never pretend the ills are not real, or that we are not required to beseech our Heavenly Father both for swift and just resolutions of all these matters, but that He will reveal to each of us in due time what it is we ought to be doing about any or all of it.


John Thayer Jensen said...

I do believe, however, that it is important not to confuse God's providence with the need for man's vigilance, that is, to think that because God can do all things we need not do anything.

Indeed. Our labour is not in vain in the Lord. I think it was St Ignatius who said that we should pray as if all depended on God - and work as if all depended on us.

My "life verse" is Philippians 2:12-13 - which sounds paradoxical:

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..."

"...FOR it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, for His good pleasure."

Alexandra said...

For anyone feeling downhearted, read Louis De Wohl's, Founded on a Rock: A History of the Catholic Church. It's an excellent broad review of the Church and the history of Western Civilization. It will certainly put things in perspective. Christians have been through much worse, and yet the Church still stands! It required great faith, sacrifice, leadership, and the example of saints. We should take our strength from this as well. If early Christians could stand firm under Diocletian(think death by lions) we can stand tall and persevere in the face of current issues.

Pray the rosary; storm heaven! We should all support and defend the Church with as much passion as Red does here.

Cathy Lane RPh said...

Why can't we call a spade a spade? Homosexuality is just not the norm to be universally acceptable by all society, and the relationship between two people of the same sex in life-long alliances is NOT marriage to be sanctified and made sacred. It was not intended for pro-creation and to support the life of human family for all Eternity! Whatever ruling was handed down to be made formally legal in CA or Netherlands, etc. in the case of a homosexual relationship, was a matter under law, a legality, not a 'marriage'. Call it what it is.