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A New Year a new leaf?

As one year dissolves into another the pessimist bemoans that the world is in worse shape than it was 12 months ago and, despite the good intentions of New Year resolutions, the upcoming months look grim.
However, the optimist may look back and see that amidst the grim realities of the previous year there were some bright spots and while not placing great faith in the New Year resolutions either, see some hope for the future.
But neither true pessimism nor true optimism may ignore the signs of the times. Even the pessimist must acknowledge signs of hope and the optimist must acknowledge pending disaster. But the challenge is to notice.
A football team takes to the field optimistically, believing it can win, but it must recognise that its opposition has talent too. Recognition and respect is not pessimism, but what makes optimism realistic.
The trick lies in finding the balance and the prophets of today are those very people who can do just that.
Pope Francis has just returned to Rome from his rambles around the Union of Myanmar and Bangladesh. In both countries he was presented with a tricky path to tread, full of pot holes, quicksand and booby traps. But he strode out with the belief that there are people of good faith everywhere and they would respond to his message of hope.
He received plenty of advice before he departed from the within the walls that encircle the Vatican, most of it well-meaning and erudite, but much of it contradictory, leaving him to face the eternal question posed by Hamlet, into whose mouth William Shakespeare placed the words, “To be or not to be. That is the question…”
But he faced the challenge with his deep down belief in the goodness of people, appealing to them to follow their shared visions. “I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” he said in Naypyidaw, encouraging people to resist the temptation to exact revenge and instead show forgiveness and compassion to allow these wounds to heal.
“It is good that the Christian leader has come here and preached peace,” a taxi driver in Yangon was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post. The comment from the widely regarded source of behind the wheel wisdom said he appreciates his affirmation for the good initiatives being pushed in his country.
Once again from behind the wheel, this time a delivery truck, came the comment, “His words of tolerance and kindness were an inspiration to us all.”
But the pope practiced what he preached and by both word and example showed that the only way forward is through respect for others, tolerance and compassion.
While the prophets of the Old Testament did threaten some pretty dire consequences at times that was not their specific task. Their role was not to destroy, but to turn people’s hearts back to God and towards the common good of the community.
Not an enviable job nor one to win popularity polls, but the one we are all called to fulfill in our everyday dealings with faith, love and realism. So get ready for a tough year, but remember, after a dark winter, a new leaf comes with the spring.
A blessed New Year to you all. JiM