It seems strange to be celebrating Labor Day this year, doesn't it? Employment in the U.S. is in a terrible state, by some measures the worst since shortly before World War II, and with little sign of improving. President Obama is going to speak on Thursday about job creation, and for all the good things he's done legislatively in other areas, by most accounts on this issue he's at least a year, maybe two years too late to the dance. The situation in Europe likewise makes the future of not only its economy but our own seem only more shaky.
Bottom line, if you're looking for wet blankets, look no further; if you're looking for a silver lining, might I interest you instead in a handsome wet blanket?
When Obama ran for president in 2008, he ran on a platform of change and also hope, audacious hope that things do not have to stay as they've always been, that it is possible for old sides and disagreements to fall away, and fundamentally that new life could spring up amidst acrimony and financial ruin.
As Christians we believe that this is possible. We believe that life emerges from death, that God not only can make a way where there is no way, but seems to tend to favor that way of proceeding. (Would that he didn't.) And as citizens of the world this year we've watched new life or something like it begin to happen in places like Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya.
But hope can be naive, too. Plato imagined human beings as driven by two horses, one noble, one "quite the opposite", and we certainly see both impulses borne out in the current political cage matches of our country. And as we see in the Middle East, new life does has costs, it involves effort and suffering. Some religious people describe such pain as all part of "God's plan," but when they do I can't help but wonder, who is this God you are living with and why do you tolerate him?
It all makes me think that today alongside hope we should embrace humility, an awareness of our place in God's kingdom -- our smallness, our limited perspective and our neediness. St. Ignatius is supposed to have said "Act as though everything depends on you, pray knowing that all depends on God." In hard times like this premature Advent darkness we seem to be stuck in, it's so important we don't forget that latter part. Cry out to the Lord, not only so that he might hear our prayers and answer them but first because fundamentally that is what we have to say. That is our prayer.
I'm back from the summer, and I'll be trying to post 2 or 3 times a week. Hope you've all had a great summer.