WITH OUR EYES WIDE OPEN
The first Christian communities lived through very hard times. Lost in the vast Roman Empire, in the midst of conflicts and persecutions, those Christians sought strength and encouragement by hoping for the prompt coming of Jesus and by remembering his words: «Keep watch. Stay awake. Have your eyes open. Be ready».
Does this call of Jesus to stay awake still mean something to us today?
What does it mean for Christians today to put our hope in God, living with our eyes wide open?
Do we let the hope in God’s final judgment lie completely played out in our secular world for all too many of the innocent victims who suffer without any guilt?
Precisely the easiest way to falsify Christian hope is to wait for God to give us eternal salvation, while we turn our backs on the suffering in our world right now. One day we will have to recognize our blindness before Jesus our Judge: when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in jail, and we didn’t help you? This will be our last dialogue with him if we live with our eyes closed.
We need to wake up and open our eyes wide. We need to keep vigilant in order to see beyond our own small interests and concerns. The Christian’s hope isn’t in being blind, since we can never forget those who suffer. Christian spirituality doesn’t consist in only looking inside, since our heart pays attention to those who are left on their own.
In our Christian communities we need to take care all the more that our way of living in hope doesn’t lead to indifference or to forgetting the poor. We can’t isolate ourselves in religion in order to close our ears to the cry of those who die from hunger each day. We aren’t allowed to nourish our illusion of innocence in order to defend our peace and quiet.
Hope in a God that forgets those who live in this world who are unable to hope at all – wouldn’t such a hope be considered to be a religious version of a kind of optimism that we hold onto whatever the cost, lived out without clarity or responsibility? A seeking of our own eternal salvation with backs turned away from those who suffer – wouldn’t such a seeking be accused of being a subtle «selfishness stretched out to the great beyond»?
Probably the lack of sensibility for the immense suffering in our world is one of the most serious symptoms of today’s Christianity that has grown old. When Pope Frances calls for «a Church that is poorer and that is of the poor», he is shouting his most important message to us Christians of the well-off nations.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf