1 April, 2019

Thus says the Lord: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind… They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

~ Isaiah 65:17-18, 21 ~

Isaiah’s upbeatness comes amidst suffering and defeat for Israel in exile. It is a reminder to us that our attitude plays such an important role in how we see our situation. Many of the reflections this Lent on contemporary South Africa have spoken of our problems: poverty, corruption, crime, inequality, the lack of social cohesion. I do not apologise for such a critique; the situations described are real and in many cases pose a serious threat to our democracy. There is a mood of discontent and even despondency across all sectors of our society.

Yet when we return to Isaiah’s vision, God’s vision, we are confronted with a challenge to ourselves. Do we choose to wallow in such disillusionment or do we, inspired by Isaiah, take action? The danger in taking action is that we act short-sightedly and destructively. At one extreme, murder, domestic violence and child rape, through violent protests, road rage or simply getting drunk. These are not solutions to our problems. They make things worse.

The great South African political philosopher Rick Turner, when asked by his mainly white students whether they should protest Apartheid, told them that the best kind of protest they could do was win people over by reasoned argument. While the system remained strong he urged them to canvas white voters to elect the least worst councillors and parliamentarians. He also encouraged black trade unionists to campaign, by striking if necessary, to get the best possible wages for their work.

Though far less politically fashionable and newsworthy than violent protests, Turner’s ideas are more relevant than ever today. Moreover, in our new democracy we have far more political space for engagement. We can not only dare to dream of a better life, we can act democratically to start to make it happen. As citizens, filled with Isaiah’s vision of a new world, we can (in fact I think we must) become participatory democrats: we must challenge our leaders to be accountable; we must examine past performances and election promises; we must prudently examine the feasibility of their current programmes; and we must get out there and vote.

 

Lord, I ask for the grace of hope. May I live in hope, and may my life inspire others to hope. For without hope I can do nothing, but with hope all things become possible. Amen.

 

Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by and

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
See more from Anthony Egan SJ
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. Matthew manages the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and is involved in the Spirituality work whilst completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and is also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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