Is there no end to the barbarism? Reports from Syrian media in the week before Christmas indicate that it was an explosive device wrapped around a 7-year-old Muslim girl that detonated inside a police station in Damascus, wounding three police officers. The 7-year-old died, the bomb having been detonated by remote control by accompanying jihadists standing outside the station.
That Dec. 16 attack was among the least noted of a brutal string of events that included the cold-blooded assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, on Dec. 19, and, later that day, an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, which killed 12 and injured dozens more.
The events have kept Pope Francis busy. In a message to Vladimir Putin, the Holy Father said he was “saddened” to learn of the death of Karlov and “sends condolences to all who mourn his loss.” He assured Putin and all people of the Russian Federation “of his prayers and spiritual solidarity.” To Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, Pope Francis denounced “the terrible act of violence” and said he joined all men and women of goodwill in their efforts to end “the murderous folly of terrorism.”
We also witnessed the continued destruction of Aleppo, Syria, that seems to have led, thankfully, to the mostly safe, if brutally mismanaged, evacuation of the remainder of civilians. Many of the evacuees are injured children, malnourished and with broken bones.
With a week such as this one — and some may say, with a year such as 2016 — it can be difficult to look forward to a new year with hope. Yet Pope Francis reminded us in a recent general audience that hope was made manifest in the world with the birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, and that our hope remains in him today.
“By fulfilling his promises and sending his Son, born of the Virgin Mary, God established his kingdom on this earth and directed our hope to eternal life,” Pope Francis said Dec. 21. “This hope is realistic and reliable; it is a hope that redeems and saves, for Christ, by coming in the flesh, has opened the way for us to ascend to the Father.”
This hope can be easy for us to overlook, particularly during dark times. But Pope Francis encouraged us, like Mary, Joseph and the shepherds and angels in Bethlehem, to “open our hearts to the Good News of the Savior’s birth and renew our hope in the kingdom of justice, peace and holiness that he came to bring.”
As we enter into a new year, despite the difficulties of life and culture, and the uncertainty of the future, what if each of us answered this call and pledged to be a bit more hopeful? Perhaps this means speaking more positively and avoiding cynicism. Perhaps it means engaging in constructive actions of service instead of descending into worry. Perhaps it means praying more, particularly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, our Hope.
Life is not easy, but Jesus Christ our Hope always is here for us, residing in our hearts if we only let him in. As we end this Christmas season and prepare to enter the Ordinary Time of a new year, let us do so with hearts full of hope and the desire to make that hope manifest to the world.
Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor