What has been accomplished in the reality we call the United States is amazing! And when we place this at the heart of the developing of a world of technological sophistication and democratic freedoms, the modern world is so truly awe inspiring. When in a plane approaching New York City for example, you see the vastness and the brightly lit skyline of our home; you can truly see how lucky we are that we have the orderly government we have, the conveniences of living (everyone has hot water and indoor plumbing and electricity!) and the more contemporary breakthroughs like the internet and modern travel etc.! We have to admit that we are lucky to live in the modern world.
But we can miss the fact that this whole human biosphere is very fragile and our very interconnectedness can signal our demise. These are sobering thoughts. But they must be seen and factored into the priorities we adopt in our lives.
For instance, this new vice of hacking could mean financial ruin for many, paralyzing our infrastructure. So much is dependent today on the internet and its sophisticated way of interweaving the hopes and expectations of each other with material processes that can, in that very interconnectedness, be very fragile.
I remember during the last black-out I still lived in East Flatbush. It was the feast of the Assumption and I barely made it home from Breezy Point, the traffic lights being all out. My neighborhood was one of the last to see the electricity restored. The dependency on this current of energy we call electricity was very evident. I had to go to bed when the sun went down since I could not read, could not call anyone, and could not watch TV etc. I was so glad at sunrise since I had light to wash and shave (with cold water since the hot water heater was also dependent on electrical power). Much of the food in the refrigerator was already spoiled. My car was low on gas but the gas pumps were not working either. Much of life was at a standstill.
Mass, however, was not so dependent, and so there was no question about the sacraments since they date back from before much of our technology.
Boy, was I glad when the electricity went back on!
What happens to us when the hackers find a way to paralyze our electrical grid? Or more horrifically, when terrorists get access to nuclear or chemical or biological materials? Much of the stockpiles are in countries with a weak rule of law and hence a greater vulnerability to sabotage and theft.
My reason for showing how precariously we stand on a thin edge is that we can have the idea that the government can protect us from all this. But it cannot.
So in the end if we place all our hopes in our material success and perceived invulnerability, we fail to see the fallacy of this stance. Nor do we understand the richness of our spiritual tradition and how necessary it is to the survival of humanity. Whatever happens in the future, we will depend on men and women of faith, of honesty, of hope, and of Christian love.
One of the stories I love comes from Roman times when it was a capital offense to be a Christian. Plague would break out in Rome. Pagans would flee the city and often leave their loved ones to die alone in the homes, so frightened were they of contamination. But the Christians did not leave. They stayed to take care of their sick family members and even to help their abandoned pagan neighbors. Lets say the Pagan lady next door (we will name her Aunt Louise!) was left to die by her family because of their fear of contamination. Her Christian neighbors, working with the courage and the compassion of Christ, go into Louise’s house to take care of her. Let’s say she recovers and gets to be healthy again. She decides she wants to be part of this new movement that has saved her, even though she was a pagan enemy of the faith. Could you imagine the confrontation that occurs when her family returned to find her alive and Christian!
When the next ‘plague’ hits, much will be destroyed; but not faith, hope and love! This is what we stand for as Christians. Everything else that seems so important (fame, wealth, power) will be done away with. How wonderful it is for us to work for things that last!