We live in scary times. What to do?

Posted February 5th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Lori and Robert Fontana

We live in scary times.  How are we as Christians and   faithful citizens to respond to all that is happening?  Jesus said to read “the signs of the times” as we try to understand what God is doing in the world and to discern what God is asking of us.

mexican poorWhat are the “signs of the times”?  Here are a few obvious ones: social upheaval with a new enigmatic  American president; a world     refugee/migration crisis unparalleled since WW II; a global environmental crisis caused by human-influenced climate change; social unrest among diverse peoples left out of the global economic order (think poor farmers in southern Mexico and   factory workers in Ohio); oppression of religious minorities;   distrust of social institutions from churches, governments, banks, corporations, and media; sexual abuse of women and children; political divisions between urbanites and rural folk; and violence as a quick, easy response to unplanned pregnancies, personal insults, criminal behavior, and diplomatic challenges.

 How would one know what God is up to within all of this chaos?  One way is to consult the Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, and remind ourselves of the scandalizing teachings and behaviors of Jesus: he gathered together disciples (men, women, and children) and taught them the Beatitudes.  He ate with social outcasts; taught love of enemies; healed pagans and Jews; protected vulnerable women from abuse by men of power.  He spoke truth to power, both Jewish and  Roman; welcomed children; affirmed marriage; fed the hungry; healed the sick; and showed mercy to the condemned.  

Pray these Scriptures and seek to “put on the mind of Christ.” (Phil 2:6)  But don’t do this in isolation.  Pray through the Scriptures with others. Let your insights be tested with the thoughts of  other people of faith and good will, even if they have a perspective different than yours.  One of the great needs during these difficult times is for people of faith to be willing to listen and learn from one another:

pope francis 4 Pay Attention to Pope Francis.  Pope Francis has challenged us  – Catholics, Christians from all  denominations, and all people of goodwill – to build bridges and not walls, to welcome the migrant as a friend not an enemy, and to allow mercy to be the clearest manifestation of our faith in Jesus. 

Pope Francis is not blind to the risk of placing the Church (which means all the baptized, lay and clergy) at the service of mercy.  Francis understands “mercy” to be central to understanding who God is and what God is doing in the world through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It is risky business to allow “mercy” to shape one’s civic duty.  For Francis, this means advocating for the unborn; sheltering the homeless; respecting gays and lesbians; caring for the sick and aged; welcoming and supporting the divorced and re-married; receiving with compassion the members of all religious traditions; speaking with and listening to   political opponents; working to eliminate the human contributions to climate change; and joining with all people of goodwill to work for the common good. 

Our Christian faith has challenged us over the years to transform our thinking.  For example, we have always worked as   advocates for the unborn, but I once favored capital punishment.  In prayer and through the writings of Pope John Paul II and the example of Sr. Helen Prejean, I was challenged to rethink my position.  We had never talked with a follower of Islam; but the examples of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and Pope Francis challenged us to meet with Muslims, attend their Friday prayer, and learn from them how they view the world.  We would resist attempts to impose sharia law on others, but the Muslims we met we gladly welcome as neighbors. 

During these difficult times, we want to be about what God is doing in the world.  We, Lori and Robert, want to be careful that we are on God’s side of on an issue, and not simply trying to pull God to our side/our view of an issue.  Very often this means standing in the middle of an issue and holding on to the good from the “left” and the “right.”  We encourage you to do the same.

All of us can do this if we draw close to Jesus, talk and listen to others who may be different from us, and pay attention to the actions and wisdom of Pope Francis who is convinced that “MERCY” is the word the Holy Spirit has given us to respond to the “signs of the times.”

 

4 Responses to “We live in scary times. What to do?”

  1. Tim Hodges says:

    I think frequently about how fear is used by those in power. The powerful want the rest of us to live in a state of constant fear. This is true for both sides of the political spctrum. Truth is the best protection from fear. We need to be aware of the world but live in God’s truth.

  2. Danny Thibault says:

    As faithful Christians our guide must be the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. Within the Christian community this is what we need to use to discern our actions. As in Jesus’s time this may be uncomfortable and countercultural.

  3. Danny Gallagher says:

    Robert and Lori — Great article! A well-thought-out and balanced, but focused, perspective on our current social and political situation. As I was listening to the “salt and light” readings today, I asked myself how I’m doing with being salt and light for the world — local and more far-reaching. I need to consider that more and change my own mind and heart to reach out more. I am so, so blessed…sometimes I forget how much. God bless you guys!

  4. Michael Krainak says:

    Great insight and teaching, Robert. Here is the quote:
    Abraham Lincoln: ” Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

    It’s important to remember that Jesus lived in harrowing times.

    The New Testament was written right as the Temple was being destroyed.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Temple_Judaism

    In this context, our Christian philosophy takes on both a deeper spiritual and intellectual meaning.