The danger of embracing the 'new normal'

You know it’s bad when you think, as things start to shake out, “30 — well that’s not too bad, all things considered.”

Such is the twisted conditioning that happens to the human psyche in the Age of Terror.

At least 30 more souls were lost March 22 in three explosions in Brussels — another senseless, despicable act of extremist violence played out on the international stage. Hundreds more were wounded.

Once again, we all played our roles. We’re good at them by now. Media outlets and individuals on social media broke the story, and wall-to-wall coverage began on cable news with b-roll footage on a loop. Political leaders called for unity and solidarity. Experts predicted a grim future full of repeated and unstoppable attacks on “soft targets.”

Even our Church leaders’ responses are starting to sound robotic, with prayers and sympathies and wishes for comfort and consolation. “The Holy Father again condemns the blind violence which causes so much suffering and imploring from God the gift of peace, he entrusts on the bereaved families and the Belgians the benefit of divine blessings,” wrote Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, in a telegram to Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels.

What else is there really to say? After all, this is, as so many have said, “the new normal.”

And so it may seem.

We automatically switch off the news in the car and on the television when our kids are around. We follow shocking events with an air of complacency and resignation. We shake our heads at the office, talking with colleagues about how terrible it all is, and then go back to returning emails. Even at Mass, prayers for peace, for reconciliation, for successful dialogue, and for an end to war, terrorism and violence take on a mundane, repetitive quality. There is so much for which to pray. It’s disheartening. It’s the new normal.

Unless we insist that it is not.

As Catholics, we must stand up as one and declare in a loud voice that there is nothing “normal” about terror, destruction, loss of life and violence, in any setting. There is nothing “normal” about regular 24-hour news coverage of explosions and police raids, be it in the West or in the Middle East. There is nothing “normal” about being so afraid to open our borders to those suffering and with no access to food, drink or shelter that we would rather lock our doors and pocket the key instead of face our fears.

As people of faith, we are uniquely positioned to create a new “new normal” — one that reflects the kingdom of God here on earth. In this reality, we work harder, we pray more, and we hope without end in the goodness of our Risen Lord.

Jesus did not come to earth so that we would be complacent. Let us live up to our potential — the potential to live out Christ’s mission of love. How’s that for normal?

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