Brother Paul’s Thoughts and Musings Regarding the “Signs of the Times”

Sunday, September 24, 2023 – The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

   A couple of weeks ago, our congressional leaders returned to Washington after their annual August recess and came back like “gangbusters.” Different and viral opinions regarding a possible government shutdown, impeachment, book banning, and other hot button matters filled the airwaves during their opening days. To think that the August time away would result in a cooling-off period and time to consider a softer approach to address these pending issues were an illusion. The terse rhetoric of these days was difficult to endure.

Hearing and digesting the national scene has become more difficult. It has been the case for some time now. What also has been regrettable is the ongoing loss of the local newspapers and the local journalism they offer. Local news can also be disturbing – and we can count the ways, but it is also different. This is because as we consider the matters surrounding our city and neighborhoods, there is much more agreement and common ground. We and our neighbors have many of the same goals and hopes. We all wish to have safe streets, no potholes, good schools, clean and safe parks, good utility services, etc. One’s political stripes usually do not enter into play when accomplishing these local goals. This is the stuff we can all agree on. This makes me consider seriously if it is better to think locally instead of nationally – at least for our mental health.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a Jesuit priest who reflected that many people like to think nationally/globally because they do not want to admit and face the problems in their own venues and surroundings. I found this thought intriguing. He said it is easier to tolerate the problems which are far away and not near. As we consider the need to transform society and bring Christ and the Good News to our world, it needs to be done, using a common old phrase, in “baby steps” in our own environment. Big change cannot be our initial goal. We need to consider the small practical practices which will promote a new and better way of being. This means how do we treat our neighbor on the local level? How do we model the Gospel message to those we rub shoulders with daily. I would like to believe that kindness, understanding and goodwill can go a long way. But it all starts locally and the “domino effect” or “snowball image” grows from local to regional, to national, and finally to global.

Again, we are presented with a great call. The treatment and transformation of our current concerns at the big level must begin with us. We need to show to one another a new way to proceed. A way that is peaceful and caring. It is a huge and monumental undertaking, but we need to believe that kindness is addictive and can spread. Jesus was able to introduce the Good News, and in time, it was embraced throughout the world. Let us have the same hope for our own local efforts.