The Responsorial Psalm offers hope to all who know their need: “The Lord listens to the poor” (Psalm 69).
Baruch 4: 5-29 gives us hope even when our sins have brought disaster on us. Our hope is based, not on our behavior, but on God’s love and mercy. But we need to ask him for help: “Fear not, my children. Call out to God!” Prayer is an acknowledgement, both of our need and of God’s “steadfast love.” We need to be explicitly conscious of both.
We also need to start changing our ways. “As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him.” To “convert,” or “turn” is to change direction. We should not be discouraged if it takes us a while to change our behavior or bring others to do so. When a large ship is underway, it takes miles for it to turn. But the minute the steersman has swung the wheel to move the tiller, the turn has begun. And the minute we “change our minds” (metanoia, “repentance”) and point ourselves in the right direction, our conversion has begun. And God will be with us to “bring us back enduring joy.”
The only way to stop a society’s headlong rush to destruction is to turn it, little by little, in another direction. That is what leaders do. When cattle stampeded in the days of the trail drives, the only way to stop them was for the cowboys to race to the front of the herd where the leaders were, and begin gradually to turn the cattle to one side. By turning them into a tighter and tighter circle, they could get the herd to “mill.” Then they would stop.
We must never underestimate the power that a society stampeding in the wrong direction has to carry everyone along with it. For this reason, Christian leaders must seek to transform society: change cultural attitudes and values; reform structures and policies; reshape patterns of behavior in business, politics and in the Church. The starting point is to admit the need and pray — “The Lord listens to the poor” — then act with hope.
In Luke 10: 17-24 Jesus promises us success but tells us not of focus on it, but rather that “your names are inscribed in heaven.” If we are leaders, it is not because we are “learned and clever.” It is because we have become like “little children” before God, asking to be taught. It is all God’s gift. “Many prophets and kings wished to see what you see….” Our focus needs to be on seeking union of mind and heart with Jesus; the rest follows. “Send forth your Spirit and our hearts will be regenerated. And you will renew the face of the earth.” The ground of everything is humility and prayer “The Lord listens to the poor.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Answer need with prayer, hope and action.