Traces N.4, April 2004

Looking at the Church to Sustain the Hope of Mankind

We are living in a terrible time. Many call it “a time of war.” Certainly, it is a period of horrible large-scale massacres, of scenes of hatred that leave us stunned and bewildered. There is disquiet and fear in the air, and no one is immune to it. We hear analyses thrown back and forth, and all kinds of conjectures. In many cases, in the newspapers and in the streets, ideology has once again become the key for interpreting reality, superficially and violently, while people remain blind to what is really going on.
On one side, there are those who, stupidly, see terrorism as a kind of just war by the poor against the rich (declared and waged, in fact, in order to grab power and to attack moderate Arab countries and the West), while the other side affirms war to be the only remedy for the world’s ills. In this way, what we get is only more hatred and a bleaker future for everyone.
“ We love death more than you love life.” With these words, those who claimed responsibility for the Madrid massacre chose to indicate their presumed position of strength against European and Christian tradition. The phrase contains the delirium that recently wrapped explosives around the body of a half-witted child in Palestine, and that moves the suicide bombers who are covering the world in blood. It is a provocative phrase, too, asking us how much we love life. For love for life is put to a tough test in times like these. What prevails is fear, self-interest, calculation and, in the end, a bleak pessimism that, under the surface of colorful distractions, permeates the feel of existence, spreading everywhere the dark shadow of nothingness. We find thousands of symptoms of this in society, in culture and in many personal choices.
In order to love life, we need a reason for hope; we need it if we are not to abandon a positive outlook, even amidst all the trials. In order to love life, we need something that makes it lovable always, even when it has a wounded face, and when we no longer seem to have the strength for it. We need to have clear in our minds and our hearts the motive for which death, as St Paul says, has no “victory.”
Christians believe in Easter, not as a rite, but as the moment in which the victory of life over death actually happened; the victory that only the power of God can give to man’s life. Easter is not a fact in the past, but history in the present, a continuous happening of events that bring reasons for hope into the life of the world. The fifty years of the life of CL–which the Pope recalls in his letter to Fr Giussani–have been for many the “movement” with which Easter entered into the existence of the world and into the way of judging life.
This is why there is written on the Easter Poster “Life as drama, as striving for the good, is brought into the world only by Christ. There is no separation between the materiality of existence and Christ who is in us, who holds us in His embrace. We are well aware of our human frailty, which we share with all men, but also of the certainty in Christ, which makes us different from all men, and therefore of the happiness and optimism that explain the inexorable repetition of our efforts, always struggling.”
Today, in such hard times, to look at the Church–the locus of Christ’s victory over death–and to pray with her to Him who is our peace, is the most adequate way, more loving of live, for driving away nightmares, for judging the facts that happen with intelligence and openness, and for sustaining human hope.