Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Work of Tenderness

We have already completed one third of the year 2014. It has certainly been an eventful time. Here in America, the flowers of spring are finally blooming after what was for many of us a harsh winter. The coming of spring was a certainty, but many events in the world are developing in ways that we cannot predict.

We continue to watch and pray over the dramas of peoples and nations, and we still wonder what will happen in the coming months at the crossroads of Russia and Ukraine. We wonder what kind of contemporary agendas may be taking advantage and imposing themselves upon a situation that could otherwise be resolved. There is the old and complex problem of integration, coexistence, and conflict among Slavic peoples whose historic sufferings are rarely appreciated or understood. But there are also many new factors -- strategic ambitions and concerns, political and economic struggles, disputes over natural resources, the great geopolitical centers of power struggling for dominance, advantage, prestige, or even their own corrupt enrichment.

Many of us feel confused about what exactly is going on, and we don't know how it can be resolved, or who should be involved. We wonder what the ongoing, escalating tension on the steppes of Europe's eastern frontier in May of the year 2014 might mean for the West, for the United States, for our children....

Certainly we have hope that peace will prevail. No one wants to imitate the inexorable march to catastrophe of our ancestors a hundred years ago. No one wants to learn by experience the strange, unforeseeable cruelties of global warfare in a new century. We have enough brutality among ourselves as it is. We have enough need to take responsibility for our own families and communities, to turn to God and to one another, to build up the good, to help one another, to bring healing to the broken, strength to the weak, protection to the vulnerable.

We don't need war. We are already living in the midst of war. Each of us has bruises from the long battle waged within our own minds and hearts, and we also live in a society riddled with open violence, and plagued by so many forces that subtly manipulate and degrade the human person. This is our war, the war that still wounds us and the people around us. We need to draw upon the great sources of healing and mercy that have been given to us, and then care for our brothers and sisters. This is our work. We need to become peacemakers, builders of human places -- places of healing -- in our own communities.

May day is observed as Labor Day in many countries around the world, and the Church marks this day as a feast for St. Joseph the Worker. Every human being is called to be a worker; we are called to engage in the circumstances of our daily lives, called to work in mostly humble ways so that goodness and beauty might flourish and grow. If we give our hearts to God, He will work through us so that we can bring to our fragile human world a much needed tenderness.

In speaking about St. Joseph and his work, Pope Francis emphasized this special quality, and we must beg God to make us tender toward one another and our world if we are to hope for peace:
"Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!" (Pope Francis, March 19, 2013)

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