Tuesday, January 28, 2014


It would take pages to list, just from a brief perusal of world news, all the various civil wars, terrorist acts, ethnic and religious conflicts, human and civil rights abuses, dictatorships, the incessant demands of people upon governments to ‘gimme’, groups seeking to exclude religion from the public square etc., etc., - in a word the depth and extent of anger throughout the world, not to mention the devastation of drug abuse, domestic violence, promiscuity, abortion, euthanasia, and greed with its attendant excessive consumerism and the extent of under and unemployment, homelessness, increased poverty.
How have we come to this?
There are clues rooted in the history of the human family since, for example, the era of the enlightment, emergence of nation states, modern economy, and in particular the axial shifts which occurred in the aftermath of the First World War in terms of its impact on civilian populations in times of war, dismantling of ancient kingdoms and empires, emergence of totalitarianism on an unprecedented scale, and, another example, the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire laid the groundwork for the modern era of terrorism.
Frankly there are clues too in the evolution of media.
Show me somewhere, please, on the face of the earth where there is a media truly unbiased!
I am not speaking, for example, of state controlled media such as in North Korea, but, especially in Europe and North America, major media outlets, be they print or television, are usually more focused on pushing an agenda rather than reporting factually and objectively.
Granted, as admittedly blogs attest, the internet allows for more voices, but the reach of blogs cannot compare to that of a major television consortium or newspaper chain.
Finally the extent to which media reporting focuses on the negatives in government, in the actions, lives of politicians, is biased against Christianity in particular, impacts ordinary conversation adding to the ever deepening anger, frustration, despair, malaise, isolation.
Just take a moment and reflect objectively on the conversations heard or engaged in on a daily basis and see how much negativity, indeed anger, dominates conversations, peoples lives.
Mea culpa I admit because I find it a real struggle myself to stress the positive, fully aware of what I am writing here!
That being said I began these reflections after observing the media’s reaction to Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, in light of which I have been paying closer attention each morning to the news on various outlets on the internet from around the world, realizing more and more we truly are living in a very angry world.
When I have a sense of being overwhelmed by something, anything physical/material, emotional/spiritual, by His grace I am moved to sit with Sacred Scripture, especially the Holy Gospel and I am struck, time and again, by the sudden awareness of seemingly ‘little’ sentences/words even which, in the grand scheme of things, at first blush, do not seem as ‘important’ as the subsequent miracle of healing/forgiveness, or as striking as the Beatitudes or the commandment to love and forgive.
This, for example from St. Mark 7: 34: “…And looking up to heaven He sighed……..”
When checking the news early each morning [or if awakened during the night to pray sometimes I will check the internet news at night, often discovering there has been some terrorist attack or so-called natural disaster] I feel a great weight, an ache in my heart, a sigh rising up from my soul because of a profound awareness whatever has happened, is happening, involves human beings, my brothers and sisters.
Thus I have some inkling of why Jesus sighs.
His sigh is an essential expression of His intercessory love, of His oneness with the suffering, the struggle, the need for redemption of every human being, first as individuals near and dear, intimately, to His Heart and then of the entire human family from Adam and Eve to whomever the last human being to be created shall be.
Perhaps if each of us was more willing to be less bent towards ourselves, to straighten up and truly contemplate our brothers and sisters, to gaze upon them and open our hearts to them as Jesus does to us we would then not simply allow ourselves to experience the dark weight of an angry world but would be moved, like Jesus, to sigh intercessory sighs and more, to actually begin the praxis of real love of one another – for bent towards ourselves is truly to hide the light we Christians are and impede the shining of the light, His light, to push back the darkness of anger and hopelessness.
In his book AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, Ben Carson, speaking about the religions which are all directly connected to Abraham warns that unless not just the leaders but the majority of those religionists [Jews, Christians, Muslims]: “….confront the radical elements who advocate violence…….If they are afraid or refuse to stand up to the radicals among them, they will share in the guilt for the worldwide holocaust which will ensue.” [Bold emphasis mine]
St. Paul urges, in a sense begs us, in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
This climate of anger, fear, hatred, violence, this extent of poverty, homelessness, assault on Christianity, the family, etc., which has engulfed us, which is pushing us towards the ‘worldwide holocaust’ of which Carson speaks, is not of human origin alone, though we bear responsibility, but comes from the vile hatred of Christ, and therefore of His followers [cf. Rev.12], which is all that the evil one is capable of for there is not but darkness within him, not but death which is his legacy, only hatred which motivates him and his minions.
In his book THE STRUGGLE WITH GOD, Paul Evdokimov notes: “We can never keep ourselves alone before God; we are saved only together…as Solviev said: he will be saved who saves others…..Thus the shortest distance between God and man passes through the neighbour.”
Evdokimov, and as an urban hermit while finding this humbling it is also cautionary and a mandate to be taken seriously, adds: “Those exclusively devoted to action should understand that hermits, by their incessant prayer, intervened actively in history. The efficacy of all human action is dependent on the intercession of their prayer, on the flame of their prayer that they send into the heart of the world.”
This reminds me of the young monk in the desert who came to Abba Joseph and, after telling the holy man how, though a beginner, he already was living the true desert life asked what more he could do.
At this the old man stood up, opened wide his arms and tongues of fire shot forth and he said: “If you want you can become a flame.”
This then, the painful, angry state of the world, the human family, our response to it flowing from our Christian vocation, through meditating on the Apostolic Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, from Pope Francis, is what this series will cover.

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