March 21: From anxiety to hope
Nearly two weeks ago, I realized I was suffering from low-level anxiety, probably the result of reading too much about the spread of the coronavirus. I had been reading news articles about the epidemic in the Wuhan region religiously since early to mid-January and began to wonder about what the impending pandemic would mean, not so much for me or my family, but for the future of civilization. A pandemic combined with climate change could mean doom of some sort or another.
Once I recognized the growth of my anxiety, I began to act. I reflected more on the events of each day for which I am grateful and the beauty that sometimes stares me in the face without my realizing. I started to think about what might come out of the pandemic that would set a new and more positive direction for our world.
I also read materials specifically about hope – not fluffy, sentimental materials, but intelligent tomes that analyze the nature of hope. Most worthwhile have been Dermot Lane’s book, Keeping Hope Alive: Stirrings in Christian Theology, and Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hoped).
It would be too much to try to summarize either text here. I will only say that the encyclical offers what Pope Benedict calls some “settings” for learning and practising hope. First, the pope describes prayer as a school of hope; it can lead to an enlargement of the heart. Second, he says that action and suffering offer opportunities to grow in hope. Third, in a more theological section, Pope Benedict asks us to see our yearning for justice as a sign of the existence of eternal life. Eternal life is not so much life after death, but the eternal permeating our daily life.
The pandemic is a great evil which is taking thousands of lives and may take hundreds of thousands of lives before it ends. But it also represents a challenge for each of us. How will we face this hard time – with fear, pessimism or hope? If we follow our best impulses, we will find hope. Open the door from your dark place and see the light shine through.
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