The Good Earth
Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. And this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks Sermons in stones and good in everything. Shakespeare, As You Like It
During World War II, Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, wrote in her diary these memorable words, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." At a time when Germany under Adolf Hitler persecuted the Jews and consigned them to the gas chamber, she, her family, and four others, were in hiding in the Netherlands. For two years, they lived in daily fear that they would be discovered by the Gestapo. However, that young girl, at a time when she was between thirteen and fifteen years old, bore testimony to the fundamental goodness of every human person.
Many would say, "How is that possible? How can we say that the world is good? There is so much evil on earth!" Yes, even in the Caribbean and in our own country, there is much evil to lament. How does the Christian justify this statement by Anne Frank?
Yes, there are wrong things in the world. There is much in the world which is contrary to God's plan. There is much in the world which is not directed by the Spirit of Christ. However, fundamentally, the world is good. The Book of Genesis tells us that after everything was created, "God saw that it was good." Even after the sin of our First Parents, the world remains basically good. Sin has not completely disrupted God's plan for man and his world. What then is the meaning of all the trials, turmoil and tribulations that confront the world?
We need to see the troubles in the world as growing pains. What we behold is a world in the process of being freed from futility, from corruption, from decadence. We experience, in the words of St. Paul, birth pangs, a world groaning to be set free. And we are part of that world in travail. We see a world in the process of liberation. And who is the author of this liberation? It is God himself. It is a painful process, a very painful process. Mankind is at the heart of that process. Indeed, mankind is called to participate with God in the liberation of the world.
This is the meaning of the Church season of ADVENT. Advent is not merely a preparation for Christmas. It is not merely a little housecleaning in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. It is, rather, a call to participate in the great work of transforming the world. Advent is much more than a call to renewal. It is a call to a revolution. It is an invitation to enter into the ranks of God's revolutionary ranks as he endeavours to change the world.
Change is at the heart of the life of the Christian. In fact, change is at the centre of the Christian revolution. Radical change is the only thing that can save the world. In fact, the life of man, if it is meaningful, can be understood only as a process of change. Cardinal Newman, that great champion of the evolutionary nature of man, tells us:
All life evolves and to be perfect is to have changed often.
So with the beginning of Advent, we recognize that we live in a world which is good. "The world is the Lord's and all its fullness," we read in one of the Psalms. The world is an expression of God's greatness. God is alive and at work in the world. We need faith to behold this divine activity.
Let us, therefore, not be deterred, dismayed or overcome by the challenges that confront us. Let us not be overwhelmed by the adverse events of this world. Let us rather resolve to walk with the Lord, assured that the Lord is always coming to encounter us, coming to inspire us, coming to strengthen us, coming to shake us from our sleep. Let us accept the challenge which the Lord deigns to give us. God is with us. He is inviting us to join with him in the tremendous task of liberation. There is hope for the world!
Yes, God is calling us to participate in a gigantic mission, which he began with the creation of the world. This mission was further strengthened and confirmed by the Advent of Christ. In various ways, God is calling us to participate in this mission. Sometimes he has to batter us to make us hear the call to personal, social, political and even Church transformation. He may seem very hard on us. However, we need to remember the revealing words of that great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, "The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of man, and his compulsion is our liberation."