The ground is shaking – despair vs hope

The ground is shaking beneath us and it is all too tempting to surrender to hopelessness and despair. How do we live in these times?

Unemployment levels in South Africa have, we heard this week, reached an all-time high. 29.1% of South Africans are jobless. The forecast for growth in the economy has been downgraded yet again. Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, in his mid-term budget this week, said that the country’s deficit will be two percent higher over the next three years than forecast just eight months ago. We heard that government wages have risen by 66% in the last ten years. In summary: more economic hardship awaits us.

Throw the net wider: corruption, despite all the anti-corruption rhetoric, continues to eat away at state coffers. Municipalities are bankrupt and cannot deliver basic services. Countless officials stand accused and yet not one single high-ranking official has been sent to bed in an orange overall. Eskom is on a knife-edge; the country is running out of water. Women and children are abused. Crime levels continue to escalate.

The Church too struggles as right-wing forces try to sow the seeds of discontent and confusion. The recent Amazon Synod revealed how deep the fault lines are in the Church. There were daily attacks on the Synod and Pope Francis himself from within the Church by self-appointed “orthodoxy police”. Some cardinals, who take an oath of allegiance to the Pope and are meant to be his closest collaborators, have turned on him and are fuelling the fires of mistrust and division.

The mystic Julian of Norwich once penned: “In the end all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of being will be well”. Oscar Wilde later added: “And if it isn’t well, then it’s still not the end.”

At the core of our faith is that God raised Jesus from the dead. If we believe in the resurrection, then the world is already saved. We can make the claim, with the same conviction, that the end of our story has already been written and that it’s a happy one, no matter how dire things might look at present.

The resurrection assures us that there is nothing to fear. Jesus told us that all will end well and in the resurrection God backs up that claim. That is what “all shall be well” really means. Despite all that is wrong around us, God will have the final say.

The Prophet Habakkuk was a minor prophet who lived in around the 7th century BC. The Babylonians marched on Jerusalem and the King, Jehoiakim, surrendered. The prophet preaches a message of hope to those who suffer under the brutality of captivity. His is a message for our times too: “For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).In other words: “All will be well!”.

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ
B.A. (UNISA) B.D. (Urbaniana) M.Th. (UKZN)

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

r.pollitt@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
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