I recently re-read the Book of Habakkuk. (It takes all of five minutes, reading slowly.) It starts out with the plaintive cry: “How long, O Lord?” Habakkuk observes the violence and deceit of unprincipled men, and he can’t understand why God does not intervene. I’ve asked the Lord the same question so many times. How long, O Lord, before violent people will be stopped? Lord, when will you step in and stop the pain and sin and addictions and fears that plague so many people? Sometimes, it seems that we are just in a holding pattern, unable to do anything but watch the nightly news and witness the world self-destruct.
Instead of the Lord answering Habakkuk directly, he asks him to do something that, at first blush, seems rather odd: “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2-3).
THE VISION! That’s what gets me beyond the plaintive cry. It’s as if our Lord was telling Habakkuk – and us – to hang onto hope; to imagine and long for a world of faith and care and concern and mercy and justice. It will not delay. It will come!
Scripture teaches us that there is a real connection between the “heart cry” and the “vision.” So, I’m going to heed God’s word and write down just a few of the things I “see” as I look to the future.
Here in our own little corner of the “world”, I see our parishes alive and growing. And, in my vision, some of the most vibrant parishes are located in the most unexpected of places. Out of the poverty and meth and broken families has blossomed poverty of spirit … and freedom and faithfulness. Once again, the Good News has been “proclaimed to the poor.” In this vision, Evansville is experiencing fewer addictions than any other urban area in Indiana. In fact, in this vision, Evansville has become a “city on the hillside” shining the Light for the world to see.
To the chagrin of a dwindling few, we remain the only U.S. city of our size without an abortion clinic. What’s more, after years of trending upward, poverty rates are finally on the decline. More young people are getting married and actually staying that way. In this vision, there are fewer abused mothers and fewer homeless children … and fewer childless homes.
Somewhere along the line, we Catholics – under the leadership of our Bishop – regained our will and found our voices. Somewhere in there, Catholic dads began to share with their sons the resolutions of love and convictions of faith that got them out of bed in the morning; and moms began to talk to their daughters about the One in their life whom they had fallen in love with and Who changed everything. Workers began to notice the crises in their friends’ lives and responded with gentle words of friendship that opened up new possibilities of faith.
The Vision goes on and on; but you get the idea.
The fact is our God does not delay. May we welcome Him right here in southwest Indiana this Christmas … and may 2017 be the Year of the Vision. It will not disappoint.
Deacon Vince Bernardin is taking a break from his monthly column. We thank him for his many contributions to The Message.