Every new year fills most of us with a sense of renewal. It is an opportunity for fresh resolutions. It is a time of stock-taking and a chance to make some serious soul-searching.
For Christians, it is an invitation to ask questions that are largely conspicuous by their absence. Do we give much thought to the existence of God; why we were created and what are our ultimate ends?
Are such questions relevant to the problems we face at every level? We live in an age of sound bites and a staccato of easy answers to complicated and complex issues. In his masterpiece Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton reminds us how obsessed we have become in energy-saving technology. As a nation, we are surely hooked, if excessive car use is an indicator of our inclination.
With his typical incisiveness, Chesterton remarked: “The chief mark of our epoch is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle.” Our world would be more silent if it were more strenuous, if we walked or cycled instead of sitting in our cars.
Needless to say, Chesterton was linking physical laziness with mental laziness. We are too lazy to indulge in serious connected thought and the endless background noise and endless TV news make sure that we evade the deeper analysis of life and its purpose as we muddle through from day to day.
Yet, the dawn of a new year is always a providential opportunity to stimulate us out of the lethargy of the everyday cares and routine. Deep down, we all yearn for the elusive feeling of joy and peace. In this respect our Faith, if tried, has not been found wanting by those who really make space to pray with a humble disposition and seek the truth.
The media, influential politicians and businessmen are trying to remake society in the absence of the transcendent
I never fail to be impressed by the spiritual odyssey of people who have grappled with life’s fundamental questions. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s personal history is a case in point. From a convinced atheist he returned to Christianity, the faith of his country that had suffered so disproportionately in the last century. His writings and witness made him a prophet that has impacted on the conscience of many people both in his country and abroad.
Other recent examples are equally impressive. I was blessed to have come across the writings of men of the calibre of E. F. Schumacher, Bernard Nathanson, Joseph Pearce and more recently, Benedict Rogers, a human rights activist who was captivated by the witness of Catholics in the hostile environments of Timor, Pakistan, Burma and elsewhere. His book From Burma to Rome is a sweeping testimony to the importance of action and reflection. One feeds the other.
Unfortunately, Europe is losing its Christian credentials due to indifference and a profound ignorance of the amazing contribution the Christian faith has given to every dimension of life, be it economics, agriculture, science, music, art, food or other areas. Even a superficial knowledge should captivate our imagination and make us realise how foolish we are to neglect such a religious heritage.
Unfortunately, the media and the dominant class of influential politicians and businessmen are trying to remake society in the absence of the transcendent. This shows up in the crass indifference to the common good and is so clearly reflected in policies that disregard the environment, promote easy divorce, the LGBT agenda, abortion and euthanasia.
Malta has not been spared from these contagious and highly virulent ideas and is even trying to outdo other countries, trying to portray itself as a beacon of progress and liberalism without any serious examination of what these values really imply. This year will see a stronger onslaught on the core values of human dignity and life with the numbing of the collective conscience on such issues as the rights of the embryo and the seriously ill.
Hopefully, we will rediscover our Christian roots and have the sensitivity to be impressed by the life stories of people like Rebecca Kiessling, whose tragic experiences have been transformed into a radical conversion, leading her to sacrifice her time and energy to inspire others to cherish life in all its stages and value the life-changing power of our Faith.
Dr. Klaus Vella Bardon is deputy chairman of Life Network Foundation Malta