Thinking Anew: Message of hope is a call to action
“As individuals, you and I may not be in a position to rid the world of the shocking arsenal that we have built but we all can play our own role in shouting from the rooftops that the life of Jesus Christ tells a very different story.” Photograph: iStock
Reading tomorrow’s Gospel (John 14: 23-29) one has to ask what have we done with the story of Jesus? Stop any young person on our streets and ask what does religion, faith, God mean to them. You won’t need a sophisticated polling company to tell you the results.
At best, young people today are indifferent to so much of what they perceive the churches are saying and doing.
Even the vocabulary that Christian churches use appears to have little or no meaning to the children and grandchildren of people who were once “believers”.
There is indifference. There is anger. There is also hurt. The clerical child sex abuse revelations have been devastating for victims and their families, for the faithful, for the public at large, and indeed for the churches. And I feel the institutional church still doesn’t get it, hasn’t fully understood the enormity of the breach of trust.
And yet if one can step back from all that terrible mess, stand back and listen to tomorrow’s Gospel with an open heart and mind, one is transported into a story of love, care, protection and peace.
Yes, it is an extraordinary leap to say Jesus is God; it is extraordinary to say that word God. But because aspects of reality or concepts are beyond our grasp, beyond our comprehension, does not mean that it can’t or does not exist. St John tells us that the heavenly father will love us, and we are also promised peace, a peace that the world can never give us.
“I give you a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” (John 14: 27)
Imagine if we had peace in our world. How well known is the church for campaigning for peace? Look again at that word love. Yes, there are some strong Christian advocates for peace, but I don’t think any poll, any measure of public opinion, would show that the churches are at the vanguard when it comes to peace campaigners. Or at least the churches’ message does not sound vibrant enough to be reported by the media.
Last year the world spent €1.7 trillion on armaments. The US president has requested a €750 billion military budget for 2020. And have we any idea what Russia and China are spending on weaponry? Weapons are designed to kill and maim.
Yet we shrug our shoulders when we hear such vast sums. Talking about billions and trillions, a friend pointed out to me recently that counting in a normal fashion it would take two weeks to count to a million, 38 years to count to a billion and 38,000 years to count a trillion. That certainly puts some perspective on the money we are spending on hardware, whose purpose is to kill and maim, not to comfort, feed, shelter and educate.
Surely a far cry from the sentiments in the Gospel “I give you a peace” that will be read around the world in Christian churches tomorrow. How many homilists will be prompted to proclaim the message of Jesus concerning peace, and what Jesus means when he tells us to love one another?
Also, in tomorrow’s Gospel there are clues about the Trinity, the mystery wherein the three persons in God exist in harmony, unity and at peace with each other. We are invited to make our home with him. We all need a haven, a place which we can call home.
Imagine what that message has to say to a world that is so broken. The peace, unity and love that the Christian message offers our world is anything but out of date and staid. It is a message of hope and love, filled with excitement and challenge.
As individuals, you and I may not be in a position to rid the world of the shocking arsenal that we have built but we all can play our own role in shouting from the rooftops that the life of Jesus Christ tells a very different story.
Isn’t it odd that there is seldom a word spoken in churches against weapons of mass destruction? That might just be another hint as to why so many people have walked away from church. Has it something to do with the perceived relevance of churches today? Jesus lived and preached love and peace, not indifference.