Hope, peace, goodness, and love. In this Advent time of holy expectation, the words seem more than ideals or dreams. Our hearts yearn for the possibility; they feel real and attainable. I want so much to feel their truth. I am a hopeless believer. I follow this beautiful man whose life epitomized the fullness of their meaning. I want them to mean something. I want to believe in those words as much as I believe in Him.
Hope, peace, goodness, and love. And then the world groans. Brutality by a segment of law enforcement, angry protests in response, and then news of a Mississippi teenager horrifically murdered on a lonely road. Are those words simple dreams? I wondered as I read two small articles buried on pages 5 and 6 of the newspaper.
132 children and nine adults murdered by the Taliban. Innocent children filled with hope, slaughtered by hate and justified by a horrific aberration of faith. The father of his 14-year-old murdered son wailed “My son was my dream, and now my dream has been killed.” I lose my breath at the pain.
I read the next article and am at a loss for words. 60% of Americans believe the use of torture is appropriate and justified under certain conditions. I read the reasons for torture: anger, vengeance, counter terrorism, self-protection. The ends justify the means. We knowingly condone and inflict the same horrors we so emphatically detest in others. It seems that hopelessness and fear reign.
Do we truly live in a world where violence is accepted, torture is condoned and vengeance is commonplace. I feel much like Fr. Gabriel in the 1986 movie “The Mission, who says “ If might is right, then love has no place in the world. It may be so; it may be so. But I don't have the strength to live in a world like that.”
It may be so; it may be so. I do not want it to be so. I pray that it is not so. I believe in the goodness of humanity. We have seen it time and time again. Throughout the centuries where the worst of mankind was present. There were people who believed in the power of good. Through the periods of genocide, greed, starvation, lust, cruelty, hate, and hopelessness; these women and me of goodness gave life a breath of hope.
Women and men who have believed in the power of hope, peace goodness, and love. Fellow sojourners who envisioned a different world. Hopeful people whose lives expressed a deep and abiding love for all of creation. A world where forgiveness is stronger than revenge, where empathy abounded over hate, acceptance mightier than exclusion and that the light of love shone brighter than the darkest of hearts.
I follow a man who said, “put down the sword” as he was being led to the torture chamber. Jesus whose dying words spoke forgiveness for his torturers. I am struggling to learn that by following this beautiful man, I do not have a choice. I cannot pick and choose his message. I cannot choose who to love, accept or who to forgive. I must follow him; all or nothing.
By following him, I know. I know inherently that choking a person to death while they scream for a breath is unconscionable. I know that vilifying every law enforcement officer is wrong. That flying airplanes filled with innocent civilians into buildings is horrific and against God. Killing children in the name of God is evil. I know that torturing another human created in the image of God is simply beyond His and our understanding.
Hope, goodness, peace and love goes far beyond the obvious. We know that no child should be abused, trafficked or die of starvation. No one should live on the margins because of who they love or where they live. We know this because we are made for hope, peace, goodness and love. Because of this, I know we cannot accept a world where children will be slaughtered at school and humans accept torture.
I believe in my brothers and sisters who share this small place called earth. I know that we are inherently good, and we will shout “no more.” Hope, peace, goodness, and love are not simple words or far away dreams. These words represent who we are. It is our only path we have for a world that has a tendency to slip into the darkness. May we all believe in the transformative power of hope, peace, goodness and love. May it be so, may it be so.