As we get older, it can become ever more difficult to strip away the complications we build for ourselves, and to shed the complexities we tell ourselves are the nature of who we are and what we do. Especially during a season ostensibly devoted to peace and reflection, we can easily feel as if we’re wrapped inside a ball of yarn, and that pulling on one string only tightens things in another direction. In the background the carols and noels provide the soundtrack that highlights our frustration at not having enough time, enough energy, enough spirit.
And when we check the news online, or, in the spirit of an old-fashioned holiday, pick up a newspaper, frustration deepens. With each new incident of bloodshed, each neighborly murder, each national implosion, each new piece of ridiculous, bombastic, inflammatory rhetoric, each new tale of human loss and suffering, a tiny piece of our own heart breaks away, imperceptibly to be sure, but accumulating in strength and depth so that resignation becomes a way of life. Where is hope when millions suffer and die from violence they did not author and cannot understand, when entire regions turn their back on human need, and when we ourselves are living in what looks more and more like a Westernized version of Somalia?
But if this season means anything at all, no matter what we believe and whom we choose to worship, it revolves around the restoration of hope. In a turbulent life, hope becomes the most precious of commodities, and sometimes the rarest. What we hope for is up to us, but the very act of facing an uncertain future with confidence that we have within us the power to make that future a better place can heal any hurt. Hope brings us forward, as simple as the children we all once were who faced each morning with the expectation that the day would bring some hidden surprise, and that we would do something good, or learn something, or simply be safe and at peace until the next day dawned.
My ongoing wish is that we can engineer for ourselves some measure of hope, and that, with hope, comes peace. This season above all others calls us to that, and brings home the simplicity of living our lives as children, as angels, as instruments of peace. We can live this way, and, in so doing, heal a bit of the world around us, and heal ourselves.
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”
-Archbishop Oscar Romero