We live in a tired Church, says Enzo Bianchi, prior of the Bose Monastic community in Italy: more and more people are leaving the organized churches for a more spontaneous and private spirituality: they just don’t see the point in belonging to some church communities whose language, practice and culture they don’t understand anymore.
Lent can be a time to pause and reflect to where we are going as a Christian community. Natural disasters such as the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan can shake the foundations of our faith. Where was God when disasters stroke those people? Much has been said and done regarding the theological responses to these kinds of disruptive events, therefore it is not necessary to repeat arguments and viewpoints which, I am sure, many of us are quite familiar with by now.
However, I would like to point out that the confusion reigning amongst the churches right now is not a product of our contemporary world, although we have to deal today with values that are the opposite of what the Gospel demands from us: individualism, narcissism, the pursuit of pleasure, the exploitation of the environment, the economic inequalities, the social injustice and so on… Also, living in the scientific era with its great emphasis on its technological achievements can give us the impression that we are in charge of our destiny and fully capable of directing our lives to where we want them to be. Recent events, however, have shown us we aren’t exactly in control of our lives. So, It is the way we respond to these new challenge that will define us as Christians. The New Testament teaches us that God sent Christ to free, liberate, redeem and save humanity from powers beyond its control. Like many before us, we can never fully grasp the extent of God’s creative plan and sometimes when we are hit by personal or collective tragedies, we are left shattered, confused, desperate or angry. Like the ancient Israelite in the desert we are tempted to turn our back on God, who seems distant and inaccessible, towards more approachable idols that can give us instant gratification.
But we don’t have to dwell in the desert forever. As Christians, we can be part of God’s creativity and life-affirming plan by choosing hope. As Bishop Victoria Matthews wrote, we choose this day to live a life of hope, sometimes in the midst of the greatest tragedies. We might struggle to make sense of our suffering and feel there is no tomorrow but in fact the resurrection of Easter has marked a new beginning for us, not just on Easter day but every day of our life. It takes patience, courage and prayer to see the light of this new day when it is still dark all around us and the temptation of giving up is so strong but we needn’t be afraid: by becoming disciples of Christ, we have chosen hope over fear.