March 12, 2010

Homily: Brave New World

Fr. Rene Butler

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda, who has never set eyes on another human being but her father and, only recently, Fernando, suddenly finds herself among a group of men, and exclaims:

“How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in it!”
[Note: “brave” here means “fine, beautiful.”]

Isaiah 35:5-6 presents a wonderful vision of a brave new world: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing.” We see this fulfilled in Jesus healings, which lead us to hope for a better world.

If you could change just one thing about the world, what evil would you eliminate? Sickness and disease, even death? We can imagine people living a healthy life and then, when the time comes, just passing peacefully to the next life in their sleep.

This would mean eliminating hunger, the cause of so much sickness and disease in the world. Think of a world where no one goes to bed wondering if they will have anything to eat the next day.

For this, we need to free the world from injustice, so that everyone respects everyone else’s rights, people help each other in their need.

Before that, we would have to get rid of hatred, the source of so much evil and suffering. Hate blinds people to anything that is good. It kills everything but itself. It feeds on itself, and grows and grows. It is the cause of so many wars, so much rage. We see it everywhere, around political and moral issues, for example. It has led to three genocides in the last 100 years: against the Armenians during World War I, against the Jews during World War II, and in Rwanda only 15 years ago.

But how do we eliminate hatred? First get rid of false pride, the arrogance that makes people believe they are the best, better than anyone else, ever ready to take offense. Pride makes people think they are above the law, exempt from the basic moral principles that govern everyone else. Greed is its closest companion. As long as I have what I want, it makes no difference to me if others have what they need.

Imagine a world without arrogance: no one feeling superior to others; no one claiming more rights than someone else. That just might be a world without hatred, without injustice, without hunger; and if we couldn’t eliminate sickness, at least sick persons would be surrounded by care, and die knowing they are loved.

A world without arrogance could produce persons who are eager to be of service, compassionate to all who suffer, anxious to share. We could look around and quote Shakespeare: O brave new world, that has such people in it! – Such people as you and I are called to be.

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