In 2016, Let’s Change for the Better
Duke Ellington’s jazz standard notes: Things ain’t what they used to be! Being a bit of a musician I often think in terms of songs though not much of the latest hits.
For me the holidays have been a quiet time. I was kitty-sitting which was a nice change. It was also a chance to look back a bit and look forward to the New Year with its new challenges and ideas.
A big change at this time have been the incessant heat waves with temperatures between 35 and 40, far hotter than we have experienced in Gauteng during December and January when often it has been more pleasant for families to stay home rather than to join the mad rush to the coast.
Accompanying the heat of course were the drought and water restrictions, which are tough for us in our cities but an enormous problem for the security of farmers and the impact on future food production.
The fact that the media control so much of our lives and thinking is also something relatively new.
President Jacob Zuma had a very rough ride, especially with the sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, but all kinds of demonstrations and protests highlight a change in people’s behaviour.
The fact that people, young and older, are speaking out and making demands is positive progress but also presents problems as too easily the demands tend to be narrowly focused on individual or group needs rather than the common good. And what an example for our children. Comments on social media seen as racist can get blown up, and constant images and reports of terrorism, war, destruction and refugees begin to make us immune to very real human suffering.
Then along comes Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy, with its challenges to be kind, considerate and concerned for the common good.
Maybe in the first few weeks we were too caught up in thoughts of Christmas and holidays. However, the potential and possibilities for changing our attitudes to become more caring and compassionate to those who are needy and afflicted can be a force for change, for the rest of the year and beyond.
We’ve used the term mercy in church so readily for so long, possibly with little deeper thought about its meaning. Yes, it is about God ‘s forgiveness, even our worst sins can be forgiven at this time, as Pope Francis has made special provision for that.
Reconciliation is not just with God alone, but also with our neighbours and the nearest of those are our family members. Was there some reconciliation this Christmas in hurting families and with long forgotten friends?
MARFAM ‘s Family Year Planner month by month will be exploring the Year of Mercy and the Family with its theme Building Homes of Merciful Love.
Being nice and kind is important but mercy demands a new vision. Mercy versus judgment, says the Holy Father. Families can practise that, and even more valuably, share their thoughts and feelings.
The bishops in their third year of the 2014-16 Family Focus are emphasising healing of broken families. Talking, listening, sharing, communicating within families about relationships goes hand in hand with the events and celebrations in Jubilee of Mercy churches.
And so, to cite another old song: I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love, grow apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves. I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company. I ‘d like to see the world for once all standing hand in hand, and hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land.
This song by the New Seekers may date from 1972, but it will be my theme song for the year ahead, for Family Matters on Radio Veritas and elsewhere whenever I get a chance to promote the family theme to build homes of merciful love.
Maybe that is not how things used to be and maybe we can make a change for a happier, healthier, holier life.