We can flee responsibilities, but we cannot avoid facing the world and its terrors. Can we do this without fear or anger, daringly, purposely? Alone — never! But is there a God Whom we can trust?
King George VI believed in such a God when he said to the nation at the outbreak of the War: “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’. And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God — that shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’.” This is the God of the Christian Gospel Who says “Fear not!” and “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, lift up your heads!” He is the Prince of Peace but He is also the Lord of the Tempest Who stood in the eye of the storm on the sea of Galilee and commanded the winds and the raging seas: Him we can trust and say with the Psalmist “The Lord is my shepherd; though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. Truly we can add ‘I shall lay me down and take my rest’.
Our God is not a distant, inaccessible God: He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that the world may be saved; Our God has become man, He has faced the world in which we live, all its predicaments, all its terrors. Of His own free will, He has chosen to be part of it, accepting the limitations of a world still in the making, still unfulfilled, distorted by the Fall. There is nothing in our human condition which He did not choose to share, even, yes, even the horror of our separation from God and His cry from the Cross is the most terrifying cry that ever sounded on earth: “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Has He not the right to command us to face the world in which and for which He lived and died, and which He conquered by His resurrection?
We read in the Bible that, having created the world, God rested on the seventh day. The world was now committed to the care of mankind, to our care and had become our responsibility. The seventh day is the day of Man, it stretches from the last creative word of God to the Day of the Lord, the day of final reckoning. God loved us into existence and has not abandoned us to our destiny; from generation to generation He has made Himself known to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear and greatness of heart to respond to His call to greatness: and when the time was ripe, He came Himself, God in the flesh, Our Lord Jesus Christ, truly human though perfectly divine, He has shown us in His person how to face the world and paid the cost of it. He does not teach us anything He has not done Himself, we can trust Him and follow Him. He has won by His life, His death and Hit resurrection the right to command our allegiance.
To be truly human we must first face three evils in ourselves: greed, fear and hatred, which derive their existence from each other, are born of our devastating emptiness: unaware of our longing for God’s life in us we lust for food, power, wealth, distractions, substitutes for true love; with, or without drugs, we drug ourselves; then fear is born in us that nothing will ever satisfy us — and a more agonizing fear, that we may lose even what we have and then our neighbour, as lost, as hungry and as afraid as we are, becomes an object of envy, of fear and of hatred.— Cain stirs within us! Unless we win the battle within, we cannot win the battle to which we are called, all of us, to make this world into a place of harmony and of love.
How to face the greed that devours us, the fear that paralyses us, yet leads to such hatred and results in such acts of cruelty, makes us so subhuman? First, by realising that our true longing is for depth, for greatness, for a God Whom we can worship, follow, and Who can fill our emptiness to the brim. Next, that, by gratifying our own greed, we deprive those who are truly destitute of their due: whatever we spend or possess beyond our real needs, we steal from those who hunger, who are naked, who are in despair and agony because there is neither a present nor a future for them and for their children; we are thieves, however honest we appear to ourselves and to others. Yes, thieves! Do we want to be such? If not, let our understanding change our hearts of stone for a compassionate heart of flesh. Let us start by giving away what we obviously do not need; having done this we will discover that other things are superfluous, or even burdensome. And step by step we will make ourselves free, free to be ourselves, free to be filled with the life of God.
I spoke last time of the way in which we can begin to free ourselves from greed; to do this will set us free also from many of our fears, of envy, of jealousy, of competitiveness, of much of our desire to assert ourselves, to come top; and, as a result, deliver us from many of our anxieties, aversions, and from the hatred that destroys us more than it destroys our would-be enemies. But, ultimately, fear is overcome by trust and by daring, by trusting God not in the silly way that makes us say to one another: ‘Don’t worry, it will not happen to you!’ while we well know that it may happen; no! by trusting the God Who says “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, lift up your heads!” the time has come when we are given a chance to be true disciples of Christ, sent into the darkest places to bring light; into fear to bring courage; into hopelessness to bring hope beyond hope; to where corruption is rife; to be the salt that stops corruption; to the place where lies are spread, to dispel them with the truth. Indeed, like sheep among the wolves, like the early disciples into a world that was in no way less corrupt, decadent and frightening than ours; to proclaim by our whole attitude to life the message of our God: “Fear not — I have conquered the world!”