Earlier this week I found myself listening to R.E.M.’s It's the End of the World (although I much prefer the cover by Great Big Sea). It’s a good song and, while I’m not exactly sure what it’s about, I always think about it around this time of the year when all the Mass readings have to do with the end of times, as we approach the end of the Liturgical Year.
I sometimes wonder when listening to the readings at Mass at this time of the year whether we should be proclaiming them as “the Good News!” Certainly hearing about earthquakes, wars, destruction and persecution makes me wonder if the Gospel writers were thinking about the time we are living right now!
And then this week with the result of the U.S. election, many are running around like Chicken Little crying “the sky is falling”. The irony of today's the Gospel reading following what’s taking place in the U.S. this week does not escape me. We can look at the reading through the lens of “bad things will happen and we should be afraid” or we can look at it through the lens of “bad things will happen but it’s not the end of the world.”
The truth is that there has always been suffering and destruction. Did Jesus tell us to watch for those things because those things are happening all the time? Surely, at some level he was speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (which took place in the year 70 AD under the Emperor Nero and the leadership of Vespasian – in fact, most Christians survived because Jesus had warned them about the signs and they ran to the hills). At another level, I do think that Jesus was warning us to be attentive all the time. Isn’t that what we try to remember every Advent?
But it's not just a matter of being attentive but also how we are attentive. How are we attentive to what's happening in the world right now? Are we attentive with hope or with fear?
That’s perhaps my one biggest concern about this U.S. election. It was a campaign of fear. In the recent Perspectives Weekly on America Votes, Sebastian Gomes compared this election night to the one eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected. On that night there was an air of hope and joy. On election night last Tuesday, it seemed that people were resigned. Sure there must have been happy people somewhere, but his sense (and mine too) is that many people who voted for Donald Trump did so, not because they were excited about him as a great candidate of hope and change, but rather because they felt cornered. (I wonder if that is how most Catholics who voted for Trump feel.)
I compare it to a recent experience I had with a woman whose husband was in hospital in a vegetative state. She could remove him from life-support or she could choose to have the doctors continue to keep him alive, even though he was not responsive and with no prospect of recovery. How does one make that choice? It is no choice. This is the “choice” that women who desperately choose abortion make. I suspect many women don’t choose abortion like you and I choose to go out for dessert after dinner. Someone once said that choosing an abortion is like an animal that is caught in a trap “choosing” to gnaw its own leg off.
A choice that we make out of fear is no choice at all.
Jesus Christ came to free us from fear. In fact He came to fill us with Faith, Hope and Love. Those are the things that should always motivate a Christian.
I’m reminded again of something I’ve shared here before. I once heard a talk from a Sister of Life in Vancouver. She asked us what the opposites of Faith, Hope and Love are.
Hope is an easy one. The opposite of Hope is despair.
Faith is having trust in God. When we do not trust in God, we trust in ourselves. That is pride. The opposite of Faith is pride.
Love is a bit harder. She argued that the opposite of Love is not hate; hate is a response. The real opposite of Love is fear. That is why we believe that perfect Love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).
Having this knowledge has made a significant impact in how I live my day-to-day. The devil wants us to be motivated by pride, despair and fear. On the complete other hand, Jesus wants us always to be motivated by Faith, Hope and Love.
How do you live your life? When you make decisions, small and big, what motivates you? Do you respond mainly out of fear? Do you act because of pride? Are you living your life in a state of despair?
In the last week we’ve also spoken a bit about what it means to follow one's “Conscience.” I wonder if part of following a well-formed Christian Conscience is acting out of Faith, Hope and Love – always.
Next week we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is a feast that reminds us that Jesus is the Supreme Ruler of our lives. He is the one who rules over us and we should have no other “kings” before Him.
Who rules your life? Who rules your decision-making? What ideologies rule in your day-to-day living?
The Kingdom of Jesus is one of Faith, Hope and Love. When we submit to Him and His reign we make a pledge to live by His rules. Do not let what you see in the news rule your life. The sky is not falling nor is it the end of the world. Yes, in some way things will be different with the new American government, but your day-to-day loving should not change. If anything, we need more Faith, Hope and Love. We need to work extra hard to bring divided sides together. As Catholics who disagree with each other, that should not be hard considering we have much more in common than what divides us.
Do not let pride, despair or fear rule in your life or motivate your actions. The battle has been won. Jesus Christ is the King of the universe and his Kingdom is one of Faith, Hope and Love!
Image from Disney's 2005 film Chicken Little.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org
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