By CAROLYN WOO
At a cafe in Chicago, I was chatting with a British former journalist and economist who is currently director of social responsibility and sustainability at a large European company.
We covered the major challenges facing our human family and the list was overwhelming: the accelerating pace and effects of global warming, massive inequality, gun violence in the U.S., racial and ethnic intolerance, nationalism, and economic policies and corporate practices that privilege profits over people.
We turned to the question, “What gives us hope?” I blurted out, “I have hope because I am a Catholic.”
It was the most inarticulate answer I could give! I certainly do not intend to be smug, as faith means too much to me, nor denote that I belong to an exclusive club or superior community that has all the solutions, does all the right things and loves people without fail.
In fact, the headlines every day showcase our faults and frailties as humans and as an institution. So how would I say it better the next time?
I have hope because I believe that God is with us, present and probably weeping in all these messes that we create. Not only present, but God dwells within each of us and gives us his own body to partake in his divinity and capacity to love.
No matter how often we fall short, God stays with us and answers our betrayal with an invitation to love anew. He sees and coaxes the good he knows we are made of.
God is real, physical and tangible in the many people whose immense kindness and generosity have shown the physics of God in action. I know I stand on sacred ground when I behold deep suffering because God is definitely there.
From every misery in our human family, I believe God can make good happen despite the boundaries of my own patience, understanding and imagination.
Grace, God’s signature, is as prevalent as we care to look. Just last Sunday in a Lutheran church at a routine piano recital by kids (and me), our teacher expressed condolences for fellow students, three Muslim sisters whose relatives were slain in the Christchurch massacre. It was a small gesture, but a large message to all who were gathered: We are one family; when one suffers, we all do.
With short notice, she urged me to play “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Always overcome with nervousness about making mistakes at recitals, I did so recognizing that it was not a performance but a prayer.
Later in the day, we gathered at a Faith in Indiana assembly to urge elected officials to seek treatment and police training, instead of incarceration, for addicted and mentally ill offenders. The auditorium at the Sinai Synagogue overflowed with supporters from all faiths, races and ethnicities: God’s family in attendance.
On the following Wednesday, I spoke at the gathering of 800 people from all the parishes of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey. It was the culmination of one year of reflection and planning under the banner, “Living as Missionary Disciples.”
There was much spirit as people raised the roof and celebrated in full voice and rhythm with an African-American gospel choir. They could not and would not let the good news go silent and they have their action plans to show it.
Later in the week, a colleague in his early 40s shared with me his great joy in his upcoming marriage to a woman who is beautiful both inside and out. For their wedding, they would like to set up a nonprofit foundation so that gifts can be used for others as their blessings already overflow.
All these just in one week!
Easter presents the call to move forward with renewed imagination that places God in our future: our reason for hope!