With the invasion of Ukraine, the specter of the ruin of Europe, as in the worst hours of the Second World War, returns to haunt us. Thus, this major event, which could be said to have opened a new chapter in history, plunges us into a world astonishingly similar to the one we thought we were forever dismissing.
But had this world been dismissed? Could he just be? Haven’t we sinned by excess of optimism? Haven’t we lost, not the sense of history, but the awareness of what it had always been made of? I do not ask these questions to burden us further but because, examined in the light of faith, they can, I believe, help us to regain courage.
A living word
If we Christians continue to receive the reading of the Bible as a living word, if it continues to enlighten us, to make us progress in the incomplete knowledge of God, it is because it describes the history of men and women similar to us and confronted with the same tragedies. Despite the chasms dug by time and cultural differences, I can feel close to an Abram suffering from childlessness, to a Joseph betrayed by his brothers, to a Job overwhelmed by spell. I can sympathize with Israel’s misfortunes, grieve over its ruin, share its aspiration for freedom. I can because I know that I am as vulnerable as they are, that I too am destined to bodily death.
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Yet it is at the heart of this history full of vicissitudes, where evil often seems to prevail over good – at the heart of this history, therefore, which is still ours – that God spoke to men and that he offered them his Alliance. It was in the heart of a Judea in the grip of permanent sedition that God took flesh, that he proclaimed the Beatitudes, that he affirmed that the kingdom of God was “among us”. He did not wait until men had become angels before affirming that his kingdom was among them.
Thus it appears that optimism is not hope, and that even it can be an obstacle to it. If it boils down, in fact, to the belief that in the end everything “will go well”, that we will squeeze through all the drops, that the difficulties will sooner or later be ironed out, we risk deceiving ourselves about one’s own condition, even actively denying it – transhumanism, for example, is a kind of optimism, since it claims that death is a solvable problem.
Quite different is biblical hope, whose ultimate expression is found in the passion and resurrection of Christ. It is not a question of denying the negative, of escaping before evil and death, but of facing them and going through them guided by faith in the fulfillment of the promise of eternal life. In other words, as long as the book of time remains open, existence will retain its tragic character, but will always also be offered, in the midst of the tumult, the possibility of tasting the life of God himself.
Eternal life and not perfect world
“She will pass, the face of this world. » What seemed unshakeable can be brought down. What seemed unthinkable may happen. But our hope is for eternal life and not for a perfect world – for which it really helps us to perfect the world. Because it is by drawing from it the strength to perceive light in darkness, harmony in chaos, love in hatred that not only will we be able to somewhat alleviate the sufferings of those with whom we meet, but also sow the seeds of a renewed world, where strength will no longer be seen as the measure of reality.
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“I know the haters have good reason for that. But why should we always choose the easiest, most hackneyed way? At the camp, I felt with all my being that the slightest atom of hatred added to this world makes it even more inhospitable. And I think, with perhaps a childish but tenacious naivety, that if this earth ever becomes even a little habitable again, it will only be through this love of which the Jew Paul once spoke to the inhabitants of Corinth in the thirteenth chapter of his First letter. » These magnificent lines of Etty Hillesum, written from one of those little hells that the XXand century has so conscientiously disseminated on Earth, seems to me to sum up the immense and magnificent task facing Christians.