Friday, January 4, 2013

Recapturing hope. . .

In a real sense we have stolen the wonder from our children and replaced it with the cynicism and bitterness of disappointed old men.  As I reflect upon Connecticut and all the buzz on the news media, it strikes me that we have forced our children to grow up -- and not in a good way.  We have taught them to think like adults -- not wise and reasoned deliberation but anger and judgement, without charity and assuming the worst.  It is no wonder that they grow up into extremes.  The toys we give them are not tools of an imagination shaped by wonder but the brutal video games of war and violence.  We turn their schools into locked down prisons and blare the raw news to even young minds until they are like us in the worst way.

I do not pretend to know what goes wrong in a shooter's mind to cause such outrage and lack of moral character and judgement.  But I know the world my children grew up in was harder and rougher than the world in which I grew up.  I fear for those born today and for what we will steal from their childhood, imagination, and wonder.  Yes, I know we think we must instill fear to protect our children but what does it do to a child to grow up believing all strangers are dangerous and the enemy?  What does it do to a child to grow up seeing so many acts of violence in movies and TV?  What does it do to a child when the good guys never seem to win and the bad guys go down in a blaze of glory?

Think about the vocabulary of  today.  If the Annunciation had taken place today, would Mary have responded to the Angel's words by saying "Shut up!" or "No way!" or "Get outta here!" or "What the f---?"  Yet these are the words we routinely use all around our children today (if not personally then through the media).  We regularly press SEND before we have had a chance to filter our words and so we respond on a visceral level where politeness, charity, and instinct rule instead of civil discourse.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the whole Christmas story is the response of the Blessed Virgin to the words of the Angel.  "Let it be to me as you have said..."  This is no shouted "Fine!" but humble words of consent that reflect a humble and trusting heart.  She does not put off the surprise but merely confirms that the grace offered to her must be miraculous "since I am a virgin."  Undoubtedly, The Blessed Virgin was raised with a whole lot more wonder and awe at the mystery of God and the gift of life than we raise our children today.  Hers was also a dangerous world.  But in the midst of all the danger, there was this intriguing sense of wonder and awe.  It did not end with the Annunciation or Visitation.  She continued to "ponder all these things" in her heart.

If there is anything I would hope for, it would be less cynicism, bitterness, and doubt... and more wonder... more awe... and not just for our children.  Christmas is a moment of wonder -- a brief, shining, glimpse of what we have forgotten the rest of the year.  But too soon the wonder is put away with the decorations and we go right back to condemning our opponents, smearing the good name of others by presuming the worst about them and by greeting the world more with a "bah humbug" than "who am I that the Lord should show such grace to me?" 

One of the Christmas carols sings, "I wonder as I wander..."  We are still wandering but the wonder has been replaced by a fearful, cynical, and uncharitable attitude toward God, the things of God, and each other. As we move to Epiphany, how can we meet God's manifestations of His grace with anything but wonder, awe, and joy?  I wish for our children, but even more for us adults, that the wonder of the manger may not quickly depart but leave us softened, open, and more gracious toward the things of God and one another...

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