Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, offers another “no.” No to a sterile pessimism
84. The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22). The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervor.
I can’t speak for other people, but I wonder what this means for me. I get frustrated, angry, and even incandescent over the wrongs and evils I see, especially within the Church. My brother once asked me why I stuck with Catholicism. I stick because I was called.
Earlier this week, I was having a particularly bad day on the discouragement front. I did bring it to prayer. And God had an answer. And so we soldier on, looking at obstacles as opportunity for self-reflection and renewal:
Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow. With the eyes of faith, we can see the light which the Holy Spirit always radiates in the midst of darkness, never forgetting that “where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). Our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds. Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, while distressed by the troubles of our age and far from naive optimism, our greater realism must not mean any less trust in the Spirit or less generosity. In this sense, we can once again listen to the words of Blessed John XXIII on the memorable day of 11 October 1962: “At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who, though burning with zeal, lack a sense of discretion and measure. In this modern age they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin … We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In our times, divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by human effort and even beyond all expectations, are directed to the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs, in which everything, even human setbacks, leads to the greater good of the Church”.[Address for the Opening of the Second Vatican Council (11 October 1962): 4]
Rejecting doomsayers is part of what we must do, I think. Every age has a tendency to think it is special: particularly blessed or particularly cursed. I don’t agree. Every age has its obstacles and distractions. To wish we had the 50’s back, or some other age is a false hope grounded too deeply in hindsight. We have problems. We have God. God promises grace. End of story. Start of work.