Saturday, July 21, 2018

Where is your focus?

I have had not a few folks from my parish admit that they are daily brought down by the things of the world.  They hear of school shootings, of the abuse of women, of the immorality of those in power, of lies parading as truth, of kooks and crackpots threatening with nuclear weapons, and, of course, the shocking reality of abortion, GLBTQ, and everything else and they feel depressed.  Depression and despair are certainly a frequent consequence of keeping your TV or smart phone tuned to the 24 hour news cycle.  It is sure to test the mettle of even the most stalwart optimist.

Is the only alternative to stay in the dark and hide from all the evil and the shocking niws of the day?  Some would suggest that this is the path.  I might call this the Amish option.  To live apart and to live seemingly oblivious to these dangers and challenges is tempting.  The Amish dream that so many have is not as workable or as easy as some presume.  Is there another option?

I think there is. 

The righteous (meaning the people of faith) may not be unaware of all that shocks and threatens in the news but that is not the focus of their hearts or their eyes.  They are not ignorant of all the wrongs and evil in the world but they do not despair.  They have confidence in the grace and mercy of God.  The cross is ever before them.  They accept that the world has departed from the ways of the Lord but they do not depart from them and chief in this perseverance is the grasp on hope. 

Facebook is filled with the odd, the weird, and the evil things and yet we click on them -- perhaps out of curiosity more than anything else.  We want to know how cute child stars grew up into not such good looking adults.  We want to know about gross deformities and other anomalies.  There is no shortage of sinful curiosity and voyeurism involved -- the way we crane our necks to see what has happened in a car accident. The world is filled with the stories of personal struggle, tragedy, and woe but we have become not only those who yearn to tell all but also those who yearn to know every gory detail.  We are willing and willful consumers in oddity, evil, injustice, abuse, and tragedy.  This is not without its cost to us and our faith.  Our focus on these things is similar to our focus on the wrongs and evils of the world around us  and it all works to pull us away from Christ, far from the hope He has come to bring, and nearer to despair.

So what?  We can start by not being avid consumers of those media that foster violence and feed despair.  Think here movies, video games, and other media that are filled with violence, sex, and evil but that means limiting our intake of the kind of news that gives center stage to violence, conflict, controversy, immorality, and evil. The world is filled with voices that encourage heat, offer little light, and trade on excess.  For the Christian, this is not who we are or how we live.

Think of the warning of the prophet:   Isaiah 33:14-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;
    trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
    who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
    who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
    and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
16 he will dwell on the heights;

    his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;
    his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.

Or the encouragement of St. Paul:  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, put these things into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:8-9).

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