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The Challenge to Imagine a New Way of Life

Patricia McCarthy, CND

In the past week, the first week of 2018, two different sources gave us words of wisdom that can challenge all of us to the core of our moral sensibility. The two sources are separated by eighty years: Pope Francis and a three year old boy.

On January 1st, Pope Francis said: “Let us nurture the seeds of peace as they grow and let us transform our cities into workshops of peace.” For so many of us, the measure of progress in our cities is a lower unemployment rate, higher school test scores, fewer high school drop-outs, a decrease in violent crimes, fewer traffic fatalities, safety in public places, adequate public transportation. Each of these measures is a good goal and a real achievement when reached. But Pope Francis is imagining far greater accomplishments. He is encouraging us to make our cities “workshops of peace.” Where would we begin? Schools? Churches? Police Departments? Public Institutions? Families? Housing? 

There are workshops offered all over the world on safety issues, on reducing violence, against bullying, on child raising, on family life, on biblical studies. Why could we not stretch ourselves and consider a workshop on peace in each of these areas? Almost every Christmas card carries a message of peace. Jesus is clearly among us as the Prince of Peace. There was never one instance of his acceptance of violence in his life and death. He did not raise a hand to protect or defend himself. Have we so separated the teachings and life of Jesus from everyday life that we cannot imagine his way of life is livable? Pope Francis doesn’t think so. He calls us to be like him in our cities and imagine and work toward peace.

The second source of wisdom that was equally challenging came from a child young enough to see life in a fresh way. The three year old was looking at a statue of Jesus wrapped in a blanket and lying on a park bench. The pierced feet identified the man as Jesus. The little boy asked, “Why is he wrapped up in a blanket?” The answer was not complicated, “He is homeless and he is cold.” In a few seconds, he responded, “Why doesn’t he live in houses that have no people in them?”

Most adults would jump to the complexity of the boy’s simple solution to homelessness, eager to point out all the difficulties in it. Addictions, mental illness, violence, drug dealing, legal issues would all be mentioned as barriers. Yet, is not a kernel of a resolution to homelessness in this young boy’s question? The boy’s moral development is greater than most adults. He saw a figure of a homeless man and he responded with a need to do something about it. The crux of a solution lies in the desire to respond. The unspoken assumption of the boy was that no one needs to be homeless.

Once again the challenge to imagine a new way of life sears the soul. Thank God for old popes and young children with clear eyes and pure hearts.

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic

 

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