instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Pessimistic Christians: how awful!"

In his "Meeting with the young people" in Sardinia, Pope Francis discusses failure and what to do about it, in the context of the call of Simon as related in Luke 5. I'll summarize his points as:
  1. You will have the experience of failure, as Simon did in working hard all night and catching nothing.
  2. When this happens, you respond by trusting Jesus, as Simon did in lowering his net at Jesus' command.
  3. Be prepared to keep saying yes, since Jesus is calling you, too, to become fishers of men.
Repeat as necessary.

The Pope also said a few words on how not to respond to failure:
Of course one thing is to let oneself be overcome by pessimism and distrust. Pessimistic Christians: how awful! You young people can't and mustn't be lacking in hope, hope is part of your being... You know, the merchants of death, these merchants that sell death, offer you a way out when you are sad, when you are without hope, without trust and disheartened! Please don't sell your youth to these people who sell death! All of you know what I'm talking about! You have all got it: don’t sell!
There is the threat of complaining or of resignation. Let's leave these epithets to the followers of the "goddess of lamentation." And you, are you following the "goddess of lamentation"? Are you continuously wailing as in a funeral wake? No, young people can't do that! The "goddess of lamentation" is a deception: she makes you take the wrong road.
(He keeps talking about "you young people," and I keep thinking of that Spike Jones line, "He was a young fellow about my age.")

The awfulness of pessimistic Christianity reminds me of the Pope's comments on optimism in The Interview:
I do not like to use the word optimism because that is about a psychological attitude. I like to use the word hope instead, according to what we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11, that I mentioned before. The fathers of the faith kept walking, facing difficulties. And hope does not disappoint, as we read in the Letter to the Romans....

See, Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.
And that, in turn, reminds me (as so many things do) of Pope Benedict XVI's statement in Spe Salvi:
The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.
Hope: the forgotten theological virtue.

(Knowledge of the existence of Pope Francis's speech via Whispers in the Loggia.)