Sunday, December 6, 2015
Temptation to Fruitless Pessimism
"Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!" With these words from Joy of the Gospel, a seminary professor, in an article of the Kyeongyang magazine,gives us a meditation on the ever-present fruitless pessimistic temptations of culture.
Pessimism's dictionary meaning: seeing only the dark side of life, gives rise to sadness and an attitude of despair. He uses a line from a novel in which the author says pessimism is a conscience without courage that continues to eat away at itself.
In Gaudium and Spes #16, we have the words: " In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this shun that."
"In some places a spiritual 'desertification' has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those places the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like over-exploited ground, which transforms into a desert” (#86 Joy of the Gospel). This attitude according to the pope leads to pessimism.
He brings to our attention the film: Life is Beautiful, directed by Benigni in 1997. The last part of the movie takes place in a concentration camp. Under the Nazi regime, they rounded up the Jews in Italy and the hero, and young son were sent to a concentration camp. The father makes a game of the incarceration. The point the professor wants to make is that even in such unspeakable circumstances, forgetting the merits of using the Holocaust as a background, the father was able to give the boy hope by turning the boy's experience into a game. Briefly, what images we have in our head and the understanding we have of God is going to determine what we see, how we judge and what we do.
Christians because of Jesus should see, think, and act differently than those without this relationship. When we have a defeatist attitude we can't help but fall into pessimism. When we lose sight of hope, and images continue to enter our head that militate against hope, we need to look at the Cross. Because sorrow and pain have disappeared we have not overcome pessimism; when we fail to see the victory of the Cross, and God's providence, pessimism remains. Consequently for a Christian the opposite of pessimism is not optimism.
Christianity is a religion with hope in the desert. We don't curse the darkness but light a candle and know that something will happen that will give us more hope, and a desire to give these candles to all willing to accept them.