Church must weep over Jerusalem

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, omi

IN EXILE

October 26, 1998

It is hard to believe that God still loves this world and smiles upon it as does a mother upon her child. Our spontaneous impulse is rather to protest, condemn and point out the world's faults, its sin, its injustice and its indifference to God.

But the world is still God's creation, still lives under God's primal blessing and, post-modern or not, is still loved by God. Like the original chaos, so full of both life and potential, our world today is still spinning and creating itself under the influence of God's breath. Its marvellous achievements reflect upon God's greatness and human cooperation with God's power. The world still honours both God and humanity.

But it also is a very mixed reality. On the one hand, the world is full of goodness, generosity, sincerity, creativity, imagination and ingenuity. Daily we see real advancement in moral sensitivity, knowledge, art and technology.

On the other hand, it is also full of infidelity, sin, injustice, greed, individualism and many other rampant forces that constitute a virtual conspiracy against the poor, the family, sexual integrity and compassion. It is a world within which progress itself often comes at the expense of the poor and progress itself causes it to be blind to those who fall through its cracks.

All of this notwithstanding, too often we tend to see the world only negatively. Irrespective of whether we are liberal or conservative, whether we are into piety or justice, we do not "weep over" the world in sympathy as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Rather we tend to stand in blanket judgment against it, refusing to recognize and bless its goodness.

Our attitude towards globalization is a good example of this. Within Church circles globalization is almost always viewed as negative, given that we are looking mainly at its economic component where we see it generating a new poor even as it makes the rich still richer.

However, there too are positive aspects to globalization, especially as regards communications, information, education, a growing universality and a growing awareness of injustice in the world. Ironically, even as it is helping make the rich richer and generating a new poor, globalization is making the world aware of injustice in a way that has never been possible before.

Thus, despite its obvious negative aspects, globalization is also helping create an interdependence which is making us, for the first time ever, truly a global community. The same might be said, in a slightly different way, about the media and its effect on our world.

And the world is not blind to our negative judgment. For the most part, it views us, the churches, with suspicion, as precisely standing in narrow and naive judgment of it, simplistic and fundamentalistic, the enemy of its life and creativity. The world does not believe in our sympathy and looks to us neither for comfort nor guidance.

What then is to be our response? Through what prism are we to see the world? First of all, we must let ourselves be purified by its critique of us. Its anger, accusation, anti-clericalism and indifference constitute for us an important road to purification and humility.

Next, our attitude must mirror God's attitude. Accordingly we must comfort and bless the world's life and goodness even as we disturb and challenge its injustice and infidelities. We must comfort it in its pain, affirm its goodness, and help it direct its powerful life forces and energy towards the transcendent, towards God, towards community, towards justice and towards compassion.

We must bless the world by letting it know that God still looks at it and says: "You are my beloved Child in whom I am well pleased"; even as we prophetically challenge it to see the poverty of its practical atheism, its lack of community, its consumerism, its greed, its obsession with comfort and the things of this world, and especially with its failure to see the poor.

Ultimately, what we must do is show the world the cross of Christ, to make it aware that the one whom it commonly rejects, the one whom it crucifies, the poor one, the helpless one, the unnoticed one, the insignificant one, is the cornerstone for its final progress.

Within all the goodness and sin of this world, our task is to stand with the poor and bring the expertise of the poor, which is the wisdom of the cross, to all the dialogue and planning that goes into helping shape our planet.

But we can do this only if we view the world through a prism of hope within which we bless its goodness and challenge its sin, even as we trust that God still deeply loves this post-modern planet and that, in the end, all will be well and every manner of being will be well.

(Website: www.ronrolheiser.com)