‘We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us; …. this is what loving God is – keeping his commandments; and his commandments are not difficult, …..’ (1 John 5: 2-3)
I wonder how many teenagers in this country know God’s commandments … the 10 commandments … and I wonder how many know the two precepts of the Church …. in short, love of God and love of neighbour? I suspect the numbers are far, far fewer that they were at the beginning of the 20th Century.
There are many reasons for this situation. Since the Second World War and the growing affluence of a growing number within the population of this country - which of course highlights the growing number of the less well-off - there has been a steady growth in Humanism, the belief that human effort and ingenuity is a far more practical philosophy than religion. Phrases such as: ‘I am capable of doing anything I want to’ … or … ‘I did it my way’ … or the command …. ‘use your potential’ - whatever that means - are bandied about as though success - financial, social and personal approval by one’s peers - are within the grasp of anyone who so desires it. Well, that is baloney. If success were within everyone’s grasp, the word failure could be erased from every language.
To return to St John’s statement that ‘we can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself’ raises the question ‘who are God’s children?’ The answer is ‘everyone!’ Children imitate their elders as well as their peers, and trite, superficial or glib catch-phrases such as those I have just mentioned, particularly when they do not materialise, or prove to be beyond one’s capability, do immeasurable damage to the self-worth and confidence of any aspiring person. How can society help? By telling the truth. I give you an example.
Some years ago, it may be as long ago as twenty, I was watching a television programme on youth employment, and at the time, there was a determination by government to encourage young people to attend university as a degree would help increase their employment opportunities. One interviewee was a young lady who had completed her degree course a year previously, and although she had applied for dozens of jobs, had failed to find employment. She had been encouraged to opt for a university education as a degree in her chosen subject would virtually guarantee her a job, a good salary and therefore a secure future. Her efforts to obtain employment had been fruitless, seemingly a year of wasted energy, and she was visibly distressed. The propaganda being peddled by the educational authorities at the time was deceitful. One wonders what ‘model’ or ‘example’ they had used to ‘encourage’ young people to opt for a university education for which a young person might be completely unsuitable. Of course, there may have been many other reasons why our young lady wasn’t offered a job, but surely isn’t that what ‘schooling’ is meant to be about? Teaching, coaching, disciplining, instructing!
Where do God’s commandments fit into this scenario? At first glance this young lady hadn’t been tutored in what to expect in university life, or perhaps given advice on alternative educational or practical routes which may have been more suitable to her temperament and her future development. Is it because some educational establishments have become more of an exam factory rather than a community which prepares children for a fulfilling and happy life? …. Success measured by exam results, rather than a young person generous in spirit and prepared to take an active role in whatever situation life leads him/her?
Whatever the reason, the cult of personal achievement has created a self-centred society, a far cry from the early Christian society which shared everything in common. Perhaps the legacy of some of the emotions experienced by millions of people affected by the current pandemic will be an appreciation of the sanctity of life, the recognition of the value of all peoples in the world, the need to support those who have little or nothing of the worlds’ wealth, a growing respect for the dignity of man and woman, the necessity of a secure family life – the bed-rock of society, the beauty of creation both of this world - which supports life in every aspect – and the indescribable wonders of the Cosmos.
St Bonaventure said that the beauty of creation leads us to God, and we pray that a greater understanding of the wonder and beauty of creation will lead more people to God, and an understanding of the value and common sense of his commandments which were given out of love and for the protection of the love of his life …. Humanity!