August is here. And it feels in so many ways that the heat exacerbates our responses to difficulties and challenges. Tempers are flaring more (just drive anywhere for more than five minutes and you’re likely to encounter everything from mild rudeness to full-blown road rage). The fears we have for our planet are running deeper even as we run out of time to fix them. We’re suddenly aware that the summer is finite, to be counted in remaining weeks rather than months.
Looking at the calendar, things aren’t exactly looking up: we can see August as almost a month of mourning. Consider that it includes International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, International Overdose Awareness Day, National Grief Awareness Day, Women’s Equality Day, International Day of the World's Indigenous People, and the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The sins and problems of humanity, encapsulated in one month of awareness and remembrance. I look at this, and I barely want to get out of bed in the morning.
And yet… and yet. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Saved from what?
We need salvation from death and destruction and a way of life that leads to this end. We need to be saved from the way we treat each other. We need to be saved from our lack of self-control, and from the selfishness that plagues our species.
Humanity desperately needs a change of heart. Speaking to the US Congress in 1951, Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, “If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system [than dealing with our problems through warfare], Armageddon will be at the door. The problem basically is theological . . . It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”
We must remember that what is happening today is down to us. The remembrances we mark are the result of human greed and cruelty, not anything random or out of our control. God gave us the world; we made of it what we wanted. Acknowledging our responsibility is the first step toward hope. The resolution to do better, to be better, is the second.
The amazing thing, to me, is that God knew perfectly well how we were going to muck up his beautiful creation. He knew what kind of people we’d become… and he loved us anyway. Sitting on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ disciples asked him about the future, and he didn’t exactly mince words. “You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end,” he said. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains. Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 34:6-14).
With knowledge comes responsibility (Luke 12:47-48). God’s teachings are a way of life. When that way of life is revealed to us, God watches to see how we respond. He warns us not to ignore what we learn, not to harden our hearts through neglect or indifference.
That’s the hope of August. That’s what we are straining toward, what we’re living for, the hope that we will make better choices, and turn to God in humility and gratitude. The hope that we will identify our mistakes and repent of them. The hope that we can imagine better than what we’re doing now, and do better in the future.
When I was looking at the calendar for August, I noticed a few other dates besides the ones mentioned earlier, silly whimsical dates that made me smile. We still have a sense of humor, for what else could produce National Rice Pudding Day, National Matchmakers Day, and National Coloring Book Day?
As long as we can maintain hope and faith, we can change the path we’re on. And perhaps even have some joy along the way!
by Jeannette de Beauvoir