We live in a world of tit for tat. The rhythm of history is one of hurt, resentment and revenge. Efforts at peace have been, in the larger picture of history, ineffective. Forgiveness has always been in short supply, extremely difficult and short-term. Fake.
Bombs and explosives, killer vans and forest fires, mudslides and floods, gangs and cartels. Jails that are overflowing and churches that are near-empty. TV images of people running for their lives. What’s going on? Who’s in charge? Has hope abandoned our world?
There’s much heart-ache in life. We dream of getting away from the pressures and resting in the hammock of delight. But we can’t let go the daily agenda so as to eat and enjoy what we’ve cooked. There’s little permission in our culture for rest and silent listening. “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened and I will give you rest.” An attractive invitation to those who are seduced by their desires. There’s an artificial urgency that tends to dissolve Jesus’ call to those who would follow him. A little discipline might help us to lighten
Public comment on the “Tuam babies” and Magdalen laundries (**), the cover-up and protection of clergy sexual abuse, Marie Collins’ resignation from the papal commission and the subsequent cover-up by Vatican beauracy all point in the one direction: the institutional church as we know it chronically dysfunctional and is currently unfit for purpose.
Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39).
“Wasting your life’, that was really the answer you got from most people,” Sr Gwen Collins says of her life as an enclosed nun. “Why are you wasting your life up there and locking yourself up there?
When former Olympic swimmer Gary O’Toole was asked who his toughest coach was, he didn’t hesitate to answer: it was Sr Gwen Collins, a member of the Carmelite Monastery in Delgany.
“I took him and I coached him, and he began to win, but he was only a kid,” Sr Gwen says. “He was only 10 when I left, but I was his first coach. But we’ve kept great friends all these years. He calls down and he writes, but he says I was a very tough lady. Very fair, that would be his comment.”
“I find the church irrelevant, out to step with contemporary culture.” You and I have heard this many times. When I see Sunday congregations that are mostly in their seventies and eighties, and look at an ageing and diminishing supply of priests and the dearth of vocations to religious life, I feel helpless and tempted to agree about irrelevancy. Where have all the young folk gone?