ColumnsNaming Grace

A light has shone

Over one of a thousand cups of coffee, my dear friend and I were discussing the culture. Becky, navigating her daughter’s teen years, lamented, “Mare, it just can’t get any worse. Certainly, things will change.” Thirty-five years later, Becky and I continue to shake our heads as our culture marches deeper and deeper into the cold winter of darkness.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II published “The Gospel of Life,” condemning the “culture of death,” exemplified in legalized abortion and euthanasia. He predicted First World countries would champion individual rights and personal freedom over all else — changing our culture. “Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable.” JPII warned that “crimes against life” and a “new cultural climate” would flourish at the expense of the weak.

Twenty-five years after publication, “The Gospel of Life” proves prophetic. According to an article, “U.S. Suicide Rates Are Highest Since World War II” by Jamie Ducharme in Time, June 20, 2019, suicide has increased 33 percent since 1999. “Youth suicide is becoming an especially pressing problem, with rates rising more rapidly among boys and girls ages 10 to 14 than in any other age group.” Suicide even among our children, mental illness, depression, drug addiction, human trafficking, homelessness, racial discrimination, pornography, poverty. Darkness blankets our country.

Throughout history, darkness rears its ugly head. The Jewish people lived in a violent, dark culture — a culture of death — with some pagan cultures sacrificing humans. And the early Christian community suffered from persecution under the Roman Empire, often resulting in crucifixion. Yet today’s Gospel, referring to the prophecy of Isaiah, announces our hope — the coming of the light of the world, Jesus: “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

Though in gloom, we will not despair. We have hope in Jesus, who so loved the world and promised not to abandon us. No matter the darkness, a light has shone. Russian philosopher and novelist Dostoyevsky wrote, “The darker the night, the brighter the stars, the deeper the grief, the closer is God!” Christians must never abandon the world, but like Jesus Christ, we must love each person we encounter.

We are the ones to bring hope to the downcast in a land “overshadowed by death.” We must shine brightly, love deeply and live joyfully!

As parents and grandparents, we name grace — God’s radiating presence — by speaking of Christ’s hope in dire situations. We strengthen our children by affirming each and every person’s worth, as made in the image and likeness of God. We form our children in compassion by serving others, especially the least, the last and the loneliest. As a family, we pray for our country to repent, and model repentance by celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation.

Becky and I continue to discuss our culture, especially when referring to our grandchildren. Yet we know because of Christ’s resurrection, darkness will never have the final word. We pray for our country, nation and people to repent and turn to the Lord. We encourage one another to serve each person in need with warmth and love. And, we come to the Eucharist, where we are fed and strengthened by Jesus to take his light into the world! Now, that’s good news!

How will your family work for a culture of life?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: