Keeping hope alive during load-shedding

The prophet announces “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals” but “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord” (Jer 17:5,7). Over the last few years we have all experienced the effects of misplaced trust in so many areas of our country and the tragic results thereof. I’m sure many of us are this week cursing those behind Eskom’s woes, and praying that the Lord would work a miracle – and that like the manna in the desert, the Lord would provide!

Spiritually, this experience of the return of load-shedding is one where our tempers are tested and our patience practiced (or not?) But could we use this time of frustration to reconnect with those we love and model what grace under pressure looks like?

We have so many audits, reviews, and commissions of inquiry going on at the moment that attempt to explain how we got here. It is quite tempting to get stuck in a paralysis of analysis. But we know that, beyond the necessary ethical, technical, engineering, environmental and financial changes that need to be made in SA, there is also the inescapable psychological change to be made. Ultimately that will be the only way of moving the country forward again. This ‘mood’ requires us to work together and recreate some optimism and share in a collective hope for a better future again. These are graces we can begin to pray for, and actively practice in these moments of, quite literal, darkness.

It is very tempting when the lights go out, the businesses stop, and the traffic gets even worse, to despair. As Christians we should be aware of the significant hope that characterises our lives. We are called to be beacons and bearers of that hope to others.

A little over a year ago our country’s politics experienced an unusual – though not unwelcome – ‘Valentine’s Day break-up’ which occasioned a wave of hope and encouragement. There is still time for us to recall that hope and for us to join together and work towards a better future.

Indeed, our Bishops this week issued a Pastoral Statement ahead of the 8 May elections noting that “it is imperative that we choose wisely and courageously and not be distracted by false promises”. A realistic hope shared by many will save us from distraction.

Can we survive through this long night into the new dawn by defying expectations? By being understanding with our suppliers and workers, and taking the time to empathise with each other’s frustrations – rather than taking them out on each other? Can we even encourage some hope in others? And together nurture that hope and work towards a better future? One that involves all persons, and is especially mindful of the poor, the meek, those who are hungry and are weeping? Then we will be, as St Luke reminds us, like them, blessed again (Lk 6:20-26).

I believe we can help our neighbours and build up the community that has been wounded by greed, corruption and self-interest by actively hoping, generously sharing and being firmly intolerant towards the corruption in our lives. The real question is: are we all willing to do what needs to be done to realise the community and country we want?  That is the crux of it.

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia. @mcharlesworth
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