Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Working for a Better World

The media these days do not carry many uplifting stories that give us a feel for the good life. Instead, we are usually left with a distaste for what is going on in the world around us, particularly when we learn that our country leads the other developed countries in the number of suicides and divorces.

The desk columnist of the Catholic Times believes the cause can be found within a society that has lost its moral foundation, and a loss of meaning for many who are living only out of necessity. Does this mean we have lost the dream of what life could be? the columnist asks.

He gives us an example of what the shape of this dream might be like by showing how a potentially disruptive situation was handled by putting into practice what we have been told is the greatest commandment: to love one another. A daughter-in-law in a farming family burnt the rice she was preparing for her  mother-in-law and father-in-law. Being very upset for having spoiled the dinner, she told her mother-in-law about the burned rice. She replied that the daughter-in-law should not blame herself; the pot she had given her was too small to hold all the water necessary to make rice for all four of them--the blame was hers. The father-in-law then spoke up and said it was his fault; he had put too much wood in the fuel hole which raised the heat too much. Here was a situation, the columnist said, that could easily have resulted in everyone becoming upset and angry, but because of their concern for each other, the ruined meal became the occasion for a good laugh. 

Though we are surrounded by a challenging and sometimes stressful world, we want to live in a life-giving environment, in a life-giving  family, in a life-giving workplace, in a life-giving Christian community. To live in such a community and society, we have to change from our present selfish concern with the self to sharing with others not only material possessions. We have to share also our concern about their total well being, as was done, the columnist makes clear, in the story about the burned rice.  The Korean proverb says it well: one word can repay a debt of 1000 nyang ( an old Korean coin).

Jesus wants us to be the salt and light of the world; without salt, food is insipid and without light, we live in darkness. There are a number of ways we can respond to a salt-less and light-less world: go with the flow, giving-in to a feeling of helplessness, or fight against this feeling and do all we can to bring life and joy to the world we are in.

When we fail to live up to our call as people of faith, we are living as worldly people and forgetting the words of Jesus. We sin like everybody else, tied to material goods, fighting and refusing to forgive. We are no longer salt or light. We have to go in a different direction from that of  society, most often relying on words to begin the process, words such as thank you, sorry, I wish you well, good job, and the like. 

Protecting only my situation, without concern for the other and not willing to see where the other person is coming from, is not going to be helpful in bringing about a new and better world.  We are to share the dreams and hopes we have. We are to be concerned for the other and to gather all the strength and motivation we can muster to be the light and salt we have been asked to be in order to bring about a better world. And we need to begin this life-giving activity now. 


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