“After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and [bank robbers]. The fact is that one can come home in the evening — on a lucky day — without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena.
Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. Just being on the record makes it appear continuous and [everywhere]. In fact, it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. In addition, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of any of these disturbances.”
This was written by Barbara Tuchman. She was the author of the books: The Guns of August about World War I, A Distant Mirror about the 14th Century, The Black Plague, 100 Years War and papal intrigue. What she penned sounds like today doesn’t it? She wrote it in 1978 – almost 40 years ago.
This led her to formulate Tuchman’s Law: “The fact that something is simply reported – multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development, by a factor of five or tenfold.”
Here’s something from another author:
No evil, violence, or tragedy overpowers the goodness of God.
The night before he died, Jesus said: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). Therefore, let us welcome Christ’s invitation to face daily events by trusting in his providential love. Let us not fear the future, even when it can appear with bleak colors, because the God of Jesus Christ, who entered history to open it to its transcendent fulfillment, is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. He guarantees that in every little but genuine act of love there is the entire sense of the universe, and that the one who does not hesitate to lose his own life for him finds it again in fullness.
The Author’s name? Pope Benedict XVI. Two authors almost 40 years apart. Yet they seem to be dealing with the same societal issues.
I had a parishioner recall a series of events in his life. Some were good. Some were not. He asked… “Since God is all powerful (omnipotent), and God knows everything (omniscient), and God is everywhere (omnipresent), and God is timeless, He knows what is going to happen in the future. Does God cause all of these things to happen in our lives?”
Answer …no. We have free will. We are freely acting subjects. We do believe in “divine providence” however. We believe that God’s will is mysteriously exercised in the events of history to accomplish God’s plan. We also believe that we were created on purpose – for a purpose. We have a role – and a responsibility- to play in that plan.
Thus, following the teaching of Vatican II, Jesus challenged us to “read the signs of the times.” As one spiritual writer comments,
The challenge here is not so much to have an intellectual insight into a particular event as it is to see the finger of God in that event.
John of the Cross says: “The language of God is the experience that God writes into our lives.” To read the signs of the times is to look at each event of our lives and ask: “What is God saying through this event?”
For Israel, there were no pure accidents, no purely secular events. God’s finger was everywhere, in every event, in every blessing, in every defeat, in every victory, in every drought, in every rainfall, in every death, in every birth. Nothing was ever purely secular or simply accidental. God still spoke through those events. The finger of God and the voice of God were seen in the conspiracy of accidents that made up the outer events of their life. To discern the finger of God in the everyday events of life was, for Israel, a very important form of prayer.
What you do matters. Years ago, G. K. Chesterton wrote,
The world stands at the same stage as it did at the beginning of the Dark Ages. And the Church has the same task as it had at the beginning of the Dark Ages; to save all the light & liberty that can be saved, to resist the downward drag of the world, and to wait for better days.
Chesterton’s words seem similar to another contemporary Pope. During the Angelus at Saint Peter’s Square, on 17 November, 2013 Pope Francis said that discipleship is ”Jesus predicts that his disciples will have to suffer painful trials and persecution for his sake. He reassures them first, not to let oneself be fooled by false prophets nor to be paralyzed by fear. Jesus says: “Not a hair of your head will perish” (Gospel). This reminds us that we are completely in God’s hands!
The trials we encounter for our faith and our commitment to the Gospel are occasions… [to live in a period of] expectation – in a time of witness and perseverance.
Thus we must not distance ourselves from the Lord, but instead abandon ourselves even more to him, to the power of his Spirit and his grace.
Or as one man at my Gospel reflection group said yesterday ….
“I make God the central focus of my life – and then let God take care of the details.”
in storm, in calm
In cyclone and doldrums
containing, supporting, embracing and holding
in dark and light
so the mystics say we swim