by Adrian Rubio
Students, faculty, and professionals alike all have their eyes glued on their smartphones, checking for the updates on the most recent news-break or scandal. Everyone seems driven by the desire to get information fast, but to what extent has the immediacy of contemporary communication created an unhealthy need for instant gratification? Our days are too short, too busy, and too overwhelming for us to stop and reflect. Nothing seems more important than responding to that text message or email received a couple of hours ago. We live in times of high standards and expectations, but what exactly do we expect from others and ourselves when we focus so much on the instant?
In our contemporary culture, we make checklists reflecting our immediate duties, trying to protect our hearts from the instability associated with deep reflection. We disregard what is important as just another task. To deter the possibility of heartache and spiritual suffering, we attempt to overwhelm ourselves with the immediacy presented by technology. The constant emails, text messages, and phone calls block us from profound contemplation. When we are presented with an open door to transcendence, a door to escape our own finitude, we often view it as something we can take control over and accomplish. As long as we can see its conclusion, we circumscribe that experience in the immediacy, and we move on, just like another email to be sent. In other words, we know how to soften our hearts of stone, but not to turn them into hearts of flesh (cf. Ezekiel 36:26).
We can relate to the Transcendent for a period of time, but we need to make our hearts feel the continual connection with Him. We need to engage in a personal relationship with the One who knows us by our names, the One who lights a fire within us and moves our hearts. If we allow Him to touch us and enlighten us with His Truth, we can be free from immanence and take up hope. Living in hope does not mean living with uncertainty, but rather living with the security of God’s protection. Although hope is central in our desire to escape from the immanent, hope is is accompanied by faith and love. The Christian life of living in hope, albeit contemplative, is not passive. On the contrary, it calls for active practice of the virtues. Hope is the burning that maintains and keeps the flame of love alive (cf. St. John of the Cross).
If we are truly hopeful, we act not out of love, but in love, because hope transforms us. It is no longer a task on our checklists, but instead a new mode of life—a life that trespasses the boundaries of the here-and-now and goes beyond the particulars to the universals. That is the Christian proposal. Life in hope is not strictly reserved for the most devout theologians, but can be maintained with active love in the life of ordinary, faithful Catholics who are able to escape the immediacy of everyday life. If we remove ourselves from the business of instantaneity and act out of love towards others, we can find greater meaning in life. With hope comes more responsibility to never forget the important when dealing with the urgent. Maintaining hope means remembering that we are in the world, but not “of the world” (John 17:14).
Let us recall St. John Paul II’s invitation to the youth, “Be not afraid.” Be not afraid to lose yourself in love, because we now live in the certainty of God.