Take snapshots of people’s goodness and hold them in your mind.

Dear Friends, 

I am writing to you because I am keenly aware that the gift of hope is often unaccepted, even while God continues to offer it to his faithful. As we make our way through time, and negotiate the realities of our time, let us be mindful that God asks us to bring about what is good and holy and hopeful in the days we have been given. Along with the days of our lives, humanity has been given a lot. 

Who among us has not rejoiced at the medical progress which enables us to save the life of a baby born at less than a few pounds, who then goes on to make a vital contribution to humanity? These stories feel endless. We should feel intense gratitude for the medical miracles God has allowed to develop. On the other hand, who will fail to acknowledge that tough pregnancies require creative adaptations and cause us all to stretch as a human family? 

Perhaps abortion, in part, has to do with expectations. Perhaps we expect to live Heaven on Earth, or to exist in some kind of ideal place, where all is in constant order and lives, our lives, follow timelines that only actually exist in the movies. Life is messy when it is lived with courage. At best, man can only create systems in need of constant upgrade, development and repair. Hopelessness comes from a failure to acknowledge that people, while imperfect, are often doing their best to offer what is good, from injured psyches and wounded hearts. 

Abortion, an action prompted by hopelessness and fear, is caused by the spirit that distorts and inflates what is bad. We have learned that abortion harms women as well as children, and prompts greater crimes against us all. Perhaps as we learn, we move ever closer to more life-giving responses. While the negative spirit will always lurk among us, prompting the loss of hope, there is another Spirit, far more powerful, far more glorious.  

My friends, let us avoid the temptation to be dazzled by the mistakes of the whole world and let us instead search fearlessly and endlessly for virtue, sacrifice, and the amazing minds which open to allow creative and wonderful solutions to be born, and the healing Spirit to have its say. The love that is consistently shown from one person to another should never, ever, be forgotten, ignored, or casually glossed over. 

When a stranger in an imperfect hospital system performs, not just her job, but her job with love and reassurance, a frightened person is calmed and feels the most intense gratitude. Think of all those people now, who helped us or our loved ones to survive an illness or injury, or to die comfortably. Together, we now ask for a blessing and reward on each of them. 

This is an interactive letter. We will pray together for short moments during it.

When a stranger in an imperfect prison system sees the plight of a prisoner and moves to improve that person’s condition, sometimes simply through kindness, the prisoner feels the most intense gratitude, remembering their dignity. Let us thank God for each of those moments now, where something good occurred because God prompted a consoling action, even in systems badly in need of development. Let us ask for a blessing on all of those people who, though strangers, serve others with kindness. Thank you, God.

Those of us who have been foreigners in what felt like hostile lands, know the wonder and the gratitude we felt when someone moved to protect us, feed us, or defend us. We will never forget those moments of care. We thank God for those strangers right now, who helped us or our loved ones when they had nothing to gain. We ask for a blessing on their intentions and their own difficulties and heartbreaks. Thank you God, for all those who helped when they did not know us and had nothing to gain by doing so.

Yes, we praise God for the goodness and kindness of the strangers all around us, who will drop their own problems to stand alongside us or our loved ones in our difficult moments, regardless of our race, sex, skin color, or mistakes with the law. We praise God for all the people who stop to help someone who experiences a breakdown of their car on the road, or who steps in to explain a situation in another’s native tongue so that people can understand events occurring around them or to them. 

This goodness swirls among us and through us each and every day. Few see it. Fewer remark on these daily moments of love happening constantly. Cynicism is not gratified by goodness, after all, only by badness. Cynicism, often doggedly insistent, causes mankind’s great goodness to go uncelebrated. As Christians, how could we possibly continue to miss all the goodness that surrounds us? What right have we to ignore so many offerings of love from humanity? We pray now that God will help us decide to notice all that is happy and virtuous and teach us all to laugh aloud each day. Help us Father, please, to reject cynicism.

There is one person who never fails to spot the good actions and celebrate them. Jesus Christ. Yes, God is with us, and not just at Christmas. God prompts the right action, gives courage for its execution, and when the right action occurs, in families, on roadsides, in hospitals, on sidewalks, God celebrates and rewards us all. Truly, when we treat others as we would like to be treated and help and respect the children of another, we give all of Heaven cause to rejoice. 

Is it possible that God looks at our efforts to be good, in our flawed systems and struggling families, and says, “You are not good enough”? No. This is not possible. We know better. God looks at our attempts and finds the good in them, while always drawing us forward into greater goodness, greater stretching. We know that God brings a lot of good from our smallest virtuous actions and mitigates our disappointing failures as well.  

How does God bring good from failure? When people recognise that an action was a mistake, Heaven rejoices. A good thing has happened in that a mistake is understood as a mistake. Thus, wisdom has grown on Earth. And we do learn from our mistakes. We do repair for our brokenness when we assist the stranger, especially when the stranger sits at our dinner table each night, or when we are the stranger acting on behalf of another or in need of help from another. 

Another example of an imperfect, but crucial offering comes from the humanly broken system of our institutional Church. Many mistakes have occurred. Many criminal offences have been suffered as in the case of sexual abuse by clergy and religious. Many faithful have fled, in some cases to protect their spirituality. In other, also terrible offenses, innocent men have been wrongly accused. Few apologize to them when they are exonerated. They suffer character assassination as Christ suffered; innocently, like the people who were physically or sexually assaulted. We pray together for all survivors of these abuses now. Dear God, please send healing to all victims of any type of abuse.

Is the Church a bad system? Or is it simply administrated by an imperfect humanity? The graces coming from our Sacraments are perfect, thus, we need a system to protect the possibility of these graces. The fact that the Church is imperfectly represented should not shock us. We are each part of that representation. We pause and pray together for our Catholic Church now. Next, together, we also thank God for our Catholic Church. 

When people in law enforcement heard of instances of clergy abuse, very few blinked. You see, police officers and court personnel carry the burden of our brokenness for us. Their vision is often mature and can be sagely wise, realistic, and tempered by years of confronting the worst of humanity and yes, the best, too. Police officers have seen it all from us. Are police officers perfect? Need we say that their systems need ongoing updating, development, and repair? 

My friends, every earthly system will require regular updating, development, and repair. Humanity must remain alert to the reality that some of us abuse power and that we can and must do better. Why do we insist on naiveté that is usually a pretence? This is possibly the most important question. We behave as though we are shocked that our systems and politicians are imperfect, yet we ourselves do not offer perfection. The current culture of hysteria over our collective imperfection is tiring. It is suffocating creativity and personal responsibility, and it feels immature. Is it possible that we all want to be innocent, and therefore we continually point at someone else or their system, insisting that another group hold the shadow while we preen and stand on a supposed higher ground? 

If anything must stop at once it is the blaming and shaming. We are all part of broken, imperfect systems, many of which we either helped to create or continue to uphold. None of us offers what is perfect. Jesus is perfect. God is perfect. The Holy Spirit blows through us with solutions that we will only offer imperfectly. This is our reality. The fact that we are an Easter people does not take away from the fact that we are also an Advent people on Earth, always awaiting perfection to come and save us. Christ can save us. Christ desires to save us because we are both loved and lovable. This is our belief. The arrogance of thinking we can create something perfect on Earth will always be answered with failure. No. We are not good enough yet. We never will be. But we are full of hope and we soldier on together, in ready forgiveness of ourselves and others, striving for improvement. 

We must be strong, my friends, and full of courage and joy. Our Catholic contribution of charity, kindness, and thoughtfulness fills Heaven with delight, especially when it is directed toward each other. Let the ‘older brother’ be full of hope, understanding that he is always a breath away from becoming ‘the younger brother’ through arrogance or sin. The privilege of remaining faithful is a high road to traverse and we often experience it as thankless. But our Father in Heaven sees us, in all our brokenness and with all of our flawed offerings and determined loyalty. Truly, God Himself is grateful. 

I send happy and loving prayers out to you, my Catholic brothers and sisters. Your courage and fidelity and your commitment to Catholic expression maintains ongoing potential for God to act with heavenly energy. Your courage and fidelity contributes a sense of true excitement for what is possible for us all as a human family and as a Catholic faith assembly. Many of our young people show extraordinary depth and global thinking that we, older Catholics, simply do not access given the limitations in our own formative experiences. I marvel in wonder at what they will bring about if we do our jobs correctly and take responsibility for offering our youth time, resources, and correct formation, along with the good example of humility. 

Let us speak constantly of hope, my friends, and of that which will not pass away. Let us spread sincere, mature gratitude for all we have been given. There is no need to become fraught with worry and despair or even anger over the problems of the day. We must be like Christ and search tirelessly for the goodness in ourselves and in the people around us. Each day and each time will have its difficulties. We walk a path of beautifully lit transcendence, trailing after our Saviour. We will represent God most accurately if we speak of good news, of love, of health, of courage and confidence, of hidden sacrifices and joy. 

May God bless us each and help us to be good! 

With love and prayers, 

Anne, a lay apostle

Let us pray together the Vocation Prayer, asking for the help of Mary, our heavenly mother.

Please Click here to download and print this letter.