Let’s talk about the world again. If your summer has been anything like mine, it’s probably been a summer of intense political debate, on both sides of the pond. Elections, referendums, not to mention the continuing ever growing terrorist attacks in America and Europe which grasp our attention so near at home.
And let’s not forget the horrendous plight of the parts of the world that are so regularly suffering violence and injustice, which I won’t begin to mention names for fear of leaving somewhere out. All these situations, when read and thought about deeply, become too overwhelming to know how to respond. I have at times felt both despair and helplessness when I consider the future of my country and the world.
At a more personal level, these types of events can remind us – in a very uncomfortable way – of the price that our faith asks us to pay. Everything worthwhile comes at a cost; this is a simple fact. Yet when it comes to our faith, this cost can hurt so badly! Whether it is standing up for uncomfortable values that others don’t want to hear about, or giving our lives for Christ, every single Christian in the world today is asked to witness to our faith. Ever thus it was and ever will it be.
So when I saw this video, I laughed. (Video contains some swearing). It is a light-hearted, but true reflection on how much we can idealize the past in contrast to our own times. I laughed because I saw how true it was. How often I’ve complained about being a Catholic in today’s world and wished I had been born in some quieter, more accepting time when my faith wouldn’t be called into question so much. Maybe in my own country I might have preferred the 1500s?!
So, It can be easy to think – “if only I was born in another time”, “back then things were different”, “it was a better time” but here we are, in 2016, facing whatever it is we’re facing.
How to go forward then, when we feel the fear and feel it badly?
I turned to three quotes to find an answer. The first is from JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Frodo, tasked with the near-impossible mission of destroying the evil Ring (a task he did not ask for that only he can accomplish) says to Gandalf:
As Gandalf implies, when we wake up in the morning we know two things for certain: that we have the life that we are given for that day, and secondly, our lives are held in the hands of our Creator. We may live like we are immortal and we may not feel like our lives are held in such a personal way, but let’s remind ourselves of what that means. As Christ tell us in Matthew 6:34, we should not worry about the future. All we can do is live the day we are given and live it well, with integrity, no matter if it is another routine day, or the most dramatic day of our life. We are called to do well with the simple matter of the day in front of us and at the end of the day, hand what we have lived back to God, knowing that He is the one that has the last word, not death.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI expresses this far better than I can when he writes:
We can forget that the foundation of the world is love. It was created out of love and redeemed out of love. So in whatever conversations or thoughts we have about politics, the world, and our difficulties – without negating the suffering of the world – we need to remember our responsibility to put love into the situation. I don’t mean this in a soppy or trite way. We have a responsibility not to fall into despair and we have a responsibility to point others to the meaning of the Resurrection. We cannot fix or hold the entire world’s problems, neither are we meant to. Only Christ, with His outstretched arms on the Cross, can hold the whole world’s sufferings. But what we can do is live in such a way that shows extreme trust and abandonment to God’s plan. We can remind others, when they are struggling or questioning what is become of the world, that it is still held in God’s hands.
The final quote also comes from Pope Benedict. It sums up the quandary of ‘living in another time’ perfectly. He writes:
Do not underestimate how much power simply living by your faith will have; you will make sure that Christ’s name “continues to resounds throughout the world”.