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The hopelessness is endless

Originally Appeared in : 9826-12/20/18
“The hopelessness all around us is endless,” writes the theologian Father Romano Guardini in his 1957 book titled The Living God where he elegantly expresses what every human heart experiences periodically throughout its existence: extreme desolation, loneliness and despair. He identifies “the hopelessness of the dreariness when the heart knows no joy and no pain; when the days are empty and silent and everything that happens meaningless; when one knows what life would be like if one could only love but cannot love, and when one’s soul thirsts within and goes about as in a barren and dry land.”
 
Father Guardini takes a sharp turn in his melancholic reflection asking if there is any power sufficient to overcome this power of human hopelessness. He quickly and confidently identifies it by writing the familiar prayer, “send forth your spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.” The healing remedy to human hopelessness and despair is God: “He can come like a gentle breath and he can touch your soul and make everything different.”
 
The Christmas story has captivated generations of Christians and non-Christians alike. The birth of a small child in Bethlehem destined to bring salvation and wholeness to all creation provides the remedy for every aching heart. The manger scene appeals to us because that little baby offers the healing balm to the hopelessness described by Father Guardini since he is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the answer to the deepest yearnings of the human heart.
 
The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way… so let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” The creator of the universe has chosen to become like one of his creatures, and by lowering himself, has raised us to himself. Jesus makes us whole by offering mercy and grace, and in doing so we find relief from the gruesome depths of the human condition. Because he has become like one of us, we can approach him with absolute confidence.
 
Father Guardini warns the reader that “what was real before still remains, yet everything has been renewed.” It appears that by noting that the hopelessness described still remains puts into question God’s power to heal it, but Father Guardini makes an important distinction by writing that everything is renewed (and not somehow erased). God does not make hopelessness vanish forever or make it impossible for a human person to experience it, but his power lies in his ability to renew it. Though as human beings we will continue to experience loss, suffering, and hopelessness, God’s power lies in his ability to transform or renew these experiences in ways that lead us to him rather than down the dark path of hopelessness and despair.
 
Christmas is a concrete reminder that God has taken upon himself a human nature to renew all things. By becoming one like us, God has renewed our humanity, and the darkest recesses of our hearts have been filled with hope and light. Even though we experience toil and hopelessness, we approach Jesus Christ with confidence since in him we are renewed and made whole.
 
Father Pablo Migone is chancellor of the Diocese of Savannah and resides in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah.
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