If there was a scale to measure global anxiety, I suspect humanity would be in the red zone these days. We can all create a litany of the things that worry us: terrorism, racism, war, pollution . . . Just watching the daily news is enough to cause a rise in blood pressure. So what are we called to do, as Christians, in these times of turmoil? This week’s readings provide us some vital clues.
First of all, the readings give us perspective. We only need to listen to Habakkuk’s lament to realize that we don’t have a monopoly on violent times. Indeed, I think the prophet Habakkuk must have penned the words of the first reading after listening to the evening news! “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Hab 1:2). Habakkuk’s pointed questions to the Lord are just as relevant today as when they were first proclaimed. Habakkuk, like us, had to struggle with how to respond to his violent times. He, like us, had come to terms with what it means to be people of faith in times of fear.
Every generation has had to learn how to cope with the turmoil of their times. The prophet Habakkuk’s frustration actually points to a very healthy way of dealing with this human experience. He enters into the mode of lamentation. He voices his fear and angst to God, even to the point of accusing God of abandoning his people. He cries out to God and, most importantly, God responds.
We see this pattern over and over again in Scripture. Humans suffer, they cry out to God, and God listens. Our belief in a listening God — a God who is present to human suffering and who does not merely watch us from a distance — is the most radical claim we make as Christians. It is truly the scandal of the cross. God is crucified in God’s desire to be present to us in the depth of our pain, suffering and sinfulness. It is this belief in a God who gets intimately involved in the messiness of our existence that constitutes the Good News!
The challenge for Christians, then, is to continue to faithfully proclaim the Good News in light of the 24-hour news cycle. When we hear stories of terror and violence, environmental crises and destruction, we have a choice. We can either let those news stories define us, reaffirming our silent, hidden conviction that we’re going to hell in a handbasket anyway, or we can claim the treasury of our faith. We can choose to give an account of our hope. We can voice our conviction that God listens to our lament. We can behave like the saved people we proclaim ourselves to be. This does not mean that, as Christians, we are naive. Rather, it bears witness to the deeper reality in which we our rooted — the salvific present of God-with-us in all times and turmoil.
Paul writes to Timothy, “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us” (2 Tm 1:14). We are wise to remember these words as we watch the daily news. Yes, the bad news is real. Yes, it must call us to action. But, the bad news does not have the last word. It does not define who we are as humans. We are capable of more. It takes the spirit of courage and self-discipline to believe this, to avoid letting ourselves be defined as creatures by the worst things of which we are capable.
The disciples in the gospel ask for an “increase in faith.” We do well to do the same. We can turn the evening news into a spiritual discipline and use it as an occasion to ask for an increase in faith. Rooted in faith, we can become the antidote to the bad news that streams toward us. We can continue to trust in God and engage in relationships with those the evening news paints as fearful. By the grace of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, we can be the co-creators of the Good News in our world today!
Rompré is the director of Mission and Ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.