Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Still Hope

There are a lot of things going on in the world that can become a cause of discouragement, and for some even of despair. Wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, abortions, the savaging of moral traditions, the crises in the Church, all weigh heavily on hearts that are seeking the face of God and struggling to endure. God sometimes seems silent, and in our worst moments we might even think He is unwilling or unable to stem the crushing tide of suffering, evil, and chance disasters. But there is still hope.

I remember, some years ago—when I was able to spare some time to tend the retreat house rose garden—I was thinking about similar issues. I had just cut a lovely rose and I was taking it to set before Our Lady. I remember thinking to myself, as I examined its delicate and intricate beauty and breathed its exquisite perfume: if God goes on creating such beauty, then there is still hope for the world. (Sometimes I see a tiny wildflower growing out of bare rock, and I receive a similar message.) Perhaps not everyone would make the connection between the silent splendor of a rose and hope for the eradication of the world’s intractable evils. But at that moment it seemed clear: signs of the profound truths about God and the world can be found in hidden and unexpected places. God goes on revealing beauty, as if to say that horror and degradation are not the last word. God is not the problem, man is. God creates roses, man makes bombs. God gives life; man snuffs it out when it stands in the way of his selfish ambitions.

When He came in the flesh to proclaim the forgiveness of man’s stubborn resistance to truth and love, the Creator of roses was forced to wear a crown of thorns. This was the price He chose to pay to give the world beauty and hope. He has already borne the accumulated malice of the world in his own flesh and has nailed it to the Cross. The current evils of the world are but the “aftershocks” of the great rupture between man and God that was healed by the death and resurrection of Christ. The world just has to wake up to that truth and begin to realize that reconciliation and transformation have since been woven into the fabric of our existence. We have but to say “yes” to the One who makes all things new. We have to walk the way He walked.

Scripture warns us that there will be tribulations and sufferings before the faithful are gathered unto God for everlasting peace. So the disasters we daily witness, while being a cause for concern and an opportunity for prayer, active charity, and Christian witness, should not lead us to discouragement or despair. God is still the Lord of history, of nations, and of your soul and mine. God is still creating beauty, and He would have us notice that—and make the connection with his ultimate plan of the transfiguration of the entire cosmos. Created beauty is like a seed of heavenly glory, planted in hope. It is a sign that the best is yet to come. The existence of a lovely rose in a war-torn world reminds us of the innocent Man on the Cross with the crown of thorns: a poignant figure, veiled glory in the midst of a world steeped in sin. Though the sun hid its light as its Creator gave up his life, and all the world was plunged into darkness, on the third day He arose in divine radiance. He disarmed death by his death, and no one will ever take his glory from Him. “I died, but behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).

Draw some encouragement from the bits and snatches of beauty you discover around you. There is still hope. Examine a rose, and pray, and you will see what I mean. The plan is not yet fulfilled, the victory is not yet fully manifest. But it’s on the way, and nothing will stop it. Just ask the roses.