Translated from the original by Ana Giménez.
If we pay attention, during the Babylonian exile the Jews were brave enough to face the four corners of the world to understand what had happened to them (see previous post : Brief introduction of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (I))
In the past, oral traditions were gathered and put in writing what is called The Books of Law. They remarked that in crisis, God seemed to move away and placed Him beyond the vault ‘sky’.
From now on the communication with Him became more complicated as that vault sky had to be crossed, the heavens needed to be opened and angels would become messengers of a distant God (for example in Jesus´ baptism the heavens opened and a dove placed itself on His head).To God´s distance the response was to enter within themselves and savour The Word of God (see Ezequiel 1-3).
Faced with the future, they opted to seek hope on their way out. An anonymous poet as well as an excellent theologian, encouraged the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They had been for several decades exiled in Babylon. When the Persian Empire led by Cyrus allowed the return to Jerusalem, some had already adapted and decided to stay. Some others had been so much assimilated by the foreign culture that they had even lost their faith in the God of Israel.
The book is called the second Book of Isaiah. Until the 18th century it was believed that the Book of Isaiah was just one book, someone discovered that it was composed by three different books, from different periods, united later in a single book. The second Isaiah was written at the end of the exile (6th century B.C.) and it is the main song of hope in the Bible.
Before such a marvel we must return once and again to discover hope when we feel that the doors of life shut ahead of us. The jewel can be found from chapters 40 to 55.The return is regarded as a new exodus. If the first one started in Egypt towards the Promised Land (the Book of Exodus) wandering through the desert for forty years, the second will start in Babylon and go through the desert till the arrival to Jerusalem.
The return is full of hope once confirmed that hope makes the desert blossom; converted into an orchard, people walk in celebration.
I sometimes think that occident is in a similar situation. The 20th century was tragic especially in Europe. Added to the Spanish civil war, two world wars, tragedy of Nazism or communism totalitarianisms, with undercurrent similar ideologies, the birth of fascism, etc.
What was believed to be new messianisms end up being massive killing factories. It is not said or mentioned but the dreams of new societies end up bathing the whole world in blood. From them on, modern humans don´t dream future times, they are content with maintaining- the way they can- democratic systems and good quality of life, facing the unstoppable advance of science and of social media communication. The empires follow their rhythm trying to dominate the world, trying to restrain the new powers which wish to become dominant.
As hope is synonymous with life, the human being can´t live without it. Victor Frankl showed in his book “Man´s Search For Meaning” that those prisoners who kept their hope in concentration camps during second world war, could bear hunger and torture much better. No matter what kind of hope, leave the camps alive, meet their families once again, have a religious belief, to survive to tell what had been experienced, etc.
In several occasions I have heard couples refusing to bring children to a world which they believe to be cruel. The sociologist Bauman tells in this posthumous book the birth of new hope coming back to the past. Hope is not found any more looking ahead to the future, but to the past. In Europe some sectors of society want to go back to medieval situations. They don´t feel it is enough to be democratic nations united in the European Economic Community, they want to go back to medieval times, before modern nations were created, they want to be back to the tribe arguing a sense of identity based on feelings.
I sometimes think that Church is now in its Babylon exile and needs to restore hope looking to the four corners of the world as Jewish people did, hand in hand with Jesus Christ ; to go back to Jerusalem crossing a blossomed desert with Christ. A massive exit of religious schemes is taking place at least in the south of Europe-I also believe it is happening in Latin America. In silence, people consider Christian religion to be something of the past, what Church proposes doesn´t interest them anymore and they abandon their faith.
New generations, included those educated in Catholic schools, as far as they get is to receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation and then, they disappear. Nowadays, according to the thinker Marcel Gauchet, we are suffering the third secularization wave.
Nevertheless, also in silence, there are small groups of Christians who are living the experience of restoring hope by crossing a desert converted into an orchard. The foundations of a minority Church are being put, based on the personal encounter with Christ dead and risen, sharing prayer and experiences in small groups, collaborating in the birth of new social initiatives which pay attention to the victims in the world.
In the middle of collapse a new hope through recollection prayer and attention to the less favoured, is born. Through centuries ,we have learnt that crisis are overcome by learning and practising meditation and recollection prayer and by helping-as much as we can- the victims in the world. To have the Bible as the book with which I can learn to live and to follow the advice of Pope Francis in “The Joy Of The Gospel”.
“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant”; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (…)For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. ‘See, I will make you into a threshing-sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Is.41:8-16)
‘The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst .But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Is. 41:17-20)
“But now, this is what the Lord says -he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.” (Is 43:1-5)