So often, the litany of human cruelties woven into the news and social media, on Twitter and Instagram and FaceBook generates anxiety, anger, frustration and even despair. There is labelling, discrimination, misinformation and judgments made without even a clue of the whole story. It is everywhere: in families and friendships, work places and homes. The volume and cadence can be deafening if permitted. To all that, there is counterpoint, a sense of balance to be afforded to the willing. Silence bathes that darkness in a light that reveals a path beyond despair and loss.
There is a sorry tempation to imagine that ours is the first society ever to suffer so. But that denies the generations of those who have gone before us and grappled with the same issues: we wear the mantle of that same continuum of human interactions. The tensions ripple through the Bible from the battle between Cain and Abel through David and Goliath to the stress in the Gospels and then the chronicles of the Acts of the Apostles. Historians capture the broader context in timelines of conquest in every part of the world, and each is undergird by the suffering of persons whose lives are devoured by time and wrestled into words that seem to hide and even deny their very existence: civil war, Roman Empire, Han Dynasty, Great Depression, the Plague, Reformation, Middle Ages, Age of Exploration. There is more to every story, and for Catholics, there are reminders.
To know loss, to meet death, to grieve: these are challenges of living. To know someone, to find the reality of a home between two souls, this is the gift of a lifetime. The joy of that authentticity is a rare privilege, and it is oddly commensurate with the weight of loss and endings. The light of it glows through the panels of time, meets the inevitable unkindness, the perverse injustice, the blatant cruelty with an undeniable fortitude. Light opens a continuum of possibilities designed to expand the spirit. Daring to respond with kindness, gentleness, truthfulness and honesty is disarming and somehow counters the litany, censures the darkness. It flows from the deepest of certainties that one is deeply known, fully accepted and undeniably loved.
Catholicism, in all its vast dimensions, provides a thousand touchstones to appreciate and nurture, cultivate and develop that idea. Part of the wonder of it is the acknowledgement that the path is wide and windy, different for each one, yet deeply rooted in the sense that the certainty belongs to every human being at each stage of being. In these days after Easter, that point finds exression in the Gospel of John. The analogy is about sheep, but the real message is about an inviolable connection between the Father and the Son, between the Shepherd and the sheep. It is the connection that constitutes hope, generates trust, and empowers faith. That all adds up to resilience, to options and to possibilities. It is all about choice, as it has been for generations, and in lives that will know anonymity in history, it is the assurance that the litany of human cruelites can be met with the best of who we are.