Not too long ago, I had the privilege of attending a marriage ceremony in the Dominican church in Rabat. The lifelong commitment of a young couple is always an uplifting experience, and this was fortified by an excellent homily and beautiful music.
During the marriage ceremony, the first-class musical ensemble favoured us with the stirring rendition of the powerful hymn The Lord of the Dance. The upbeat message encapsulated the enduring message of Christ’s resurrection where we are invited to accept his leadership.
Despite the challenging demands of Christianity that go against the grain of our egoistic short-term interests, the revolutionary and positive impact of our Christian faith never fails to be inspiring. This is even reflected in the richness of the architecture of our churches and the art that embellishes them.
Unfortunately, and too often, we allow ourselves to be despondent and cynical, letting ourselves focus on the gutter instead of looking up at what is wholesome and enriching.
The media unfortunately seems to reinforce a negative outlook on life as they expose sleaze, greed, drug and human trafficking, crime and all sorts of corruption. Evil has existed and will always exist, yet it does not have the last word. Relatively recent historical events should fill us with courage, and John Paul II’s clarion call “Do not be afraid, open your hearts to Christ” proved prophetic.
The last century was marked by the frightful carnage of two world wars and the concomitant denial of God that led to totalitarian regimes that resulted in the horrors of the concentration camps and the gulags.
Faith is a constant challenge to make us strive for what we ought to be
Yet, in eastern Europe, religion and the Church proved to be the most effective way to liberate man from the atheistic system that denied the most basic human rights, those of freedom of conscience and religion.
Those of us who were adults before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 were led to believe and accept that communism was inevitable. People of faith proved us wrong.
Meanwhile, in the West, it was also the vision of committed Christians like Alcide De Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman who paved the way for unprecedented reconciliation and co-operation in Europe.
As so many successful athletes tell us, we are in control of our destiny and it is up to us to make the effort. What applies to physical improvement applies all the more to the moral and spiritual dimension.
This was exemplified by Pope John Paul II, who insisted that the Church serves human liberation by offering us the opportunity of “awakening our consciences through the Gospel”. In turn, by embracing the Good News, we recognise our human dignity, enabling us to cultivate the virtues that eventually have a positive impact on society.
This dynamism can, at times, even give us heroic people like Mother Teresa, who served the poorest of the poor, founding one of the most devoted Catholic religious orders; and Sr Ruth Pfau, the German nun and doctor who dedicated her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan.
Therefore, we must not be disheartened by developments that betray the ideals of so many people who took a stand and made sacrifices to promote freedom and foster the common good. Our faith is a constant challenge to make us strive for what we ought to be.
Prodding our conscience with his inimitable wit, G. K. Chesterton quipped in his book What’s Wrong with the World: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
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