Acts 4:23-31 (After Peter and John are released, the community prays for continued inspired preaching; all are filled with the Holy Spirit)
Psalm 2: 1-9 (Why do the nations rage, and the people utter folly?)
John 3:1-8 (Nicodemus meets Jesus: "How can a man once grown old be born again?")
As we have exhausted the accounts of the Resurrection, the Church now turns in these weeks of Easter to the life of the first Christian community; and to passages in the Gospels (particularly John) that deal with new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
I know one way that God speaks to me where I am happens when an event from my life is echoed in at least one of the selected readings.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the killing of twelve students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver.
I had forgotten the number - and it's odd that it represents the twelve apostles and Jesus. It also happened shortly after I had to give up my active diaconal ministry. This sure didn't help anyone at the time, let alone me.
Like the 1995 incident in Oklahoma City I recalled yesterday, this tragedy added to the growing number of sad events that looked to be falling with rather close proximity to Easter. Not that it would have been any less tragic at any other time; it just seemed that over a period of a few years, a lot more events like these - especially ones at schools - took place in April or May. When contrasted with the joy of the Resurrection, it makes the words of the psalmist all the more poignant: Why do the nations rage? What is your problem, people?
As our young - the future of the world - come of age, they see the sorry state of their country and their world - the one they are to inherit as adults - dutifully reported by the news media. They are seeing the folly of bureaucracy at every level. Having been encouraged to be free thinkers in the hallowed halls of education, they are also reminded that they as yet don't have a voice in their own future. They will enter an adult world where they may be sent off to war and be killed; or find that their further education takes place on the street; or will enter college looking for a degree in a field that may not even exist when they graduate, or may not have a job for them. They will see the relative heaven their parents raised them in shattered by the time they graduate, if not sooner.
Like their counterparts as adults, some will be blessed - they don't accept defeat and keep looking for that which will lead them to stable relationships and a fighting chance at a good future. Some will live from day to day, and somehow get by. Others, overwhelmed by a constant barrage of negativity reported in the news, see no hope for them in this hostile world. Some of these will succumb to temptation, anything from a slight misdemeanor to perpetrating a tragedy like the one at Columbine.
We can't sugar-coat the world to our kids forever. That would give them a false sense of hope. We can't leave them hopeless, either. We have to be realistic. How can we do this? It's much like Nicodemus' questions to Jesus that evening. What Jesus told him seemed impossible. How is one 'born again?'
We must be people of faith. Faith begets hope, and hope can beget even more hope if we hold on to it.
Being "faith-full" requires us to be firm in our resolve to live within our means, with the people and situations in which we're placed, and to affirm all that is good while avoiding the rest with determination. For some this determination will take every bit of personal strength one can muster, and more that when looking back, was one of those times when "I didn't know I had it in me." (Because you let God work in you!)
Having hope means you embrace the potential for personal change (conversion), change only you can control; but can also have a profound effect on others as they may embrace their own personal changes by your example.
Former Vice President Al Gore said this of the Columbine tragedy:
"To the world that is watching us, let us remind them that the young killers of Columbine High School do not stand for the spirit of America...we can stop the violence and the hate. In a culture rife with violence -- where too many young people place too little value on a human life -- we can rise up and say no more."
If it is to be, it must begin with me - at home, at the grass roots level; with diligence, determination, and compassion; in love, faith, and hope.