|So much at stake|
It is rare enough for our nation and its news outlets to maintain sustained attention on a situation in a foreign country. Our notoriously short attention span, lack of interest in anything that does not directly affect us, and near-complete thrall to the infotainment industry’s agenda of selling us consumer goods and political panic preclude our awareness of and interest in what is happening far away. But somehow, Hong Kong has slipped through this near-impermeable barrier.
Far away from us, so why are we paying attention? Why does news from there still merit front-page photos and top stories on every program and site? Is it that we recognize our common humanity manifest in the striving of the millions who march against oppression? Is it out of suspense as to how long recurring mass demonstrations can be sustained before one side or another (the demonstrators or the demonstrated-against) does something to tip the entire situation into chaos? Is it out of the same sort of morbid fascination that makes people keep watching the ocean swimmers in the movie Jawseven as doubt about the eventual outcome dwindles and disappears? Or, against all reason and experience, do we secretly nurture hope that it all might resolve and turn out well?
Let me give one reason why you and I should transfer our motivation to that last possibility, the hopeful one: Father Joseph McCabe, M.M.
Fr. McCabe, to refresh your memories, or to inform you who are new to the parish, lived here for two and a half years until June 2015. A Maryknoll missionary priest from Long Island, he obtained a Canon Law degree from Catholic University and made a big contribution to – and quite the impression on – our parish. Hardly your usual student priest, he was in his mid-sixties already when he arrived, after decades in the missions of Tanzania and the Russian far east, and another decade in service of the Holy See in Rome. If you weren’t here then, ask someone who was: he was a force of nature.
Once he achieved his degree, his assignment was to become Judicial Vicar for the diocese of – you guessed it – Hong Kong. For four years I have enjoyed his stories about that city, his parish work there (dozens in RCIA every year! near-constant weddings!), and his rectory life. He also has become superior of all Maryknoll personnel in the whole region, including southeast Asia and Australia.
After a long, anxious silence, Fr. McCabe recently wrote me. He is okay; but life in Hong Kong is changed and difficult. There is hope, there is fear, nobody knows whom to trust or where there is safety. Both demonstrators and demonstrated-against frighten and threaten. Nobody knows what to expect, when or how it will end, but they must and do nurture hope that it all might resolve and turn out well.
Not only because he must and will stay in Hong Kong, and not only because he has grown to love and care about many people there, but also because it is what he as a priest does and what we as Christians do, he begs for our prayers. He knows, though not everybody there knows, that prayer to God is a powerful force for good in this life and in this world. He knows, though not everybody there knows, but we do if we pause long enough to consider, that you and I are not powerless to contribute to the outcome of this spectacular and historic drama playing out on the other side of the planet. He knows, though we can easily forget or be distracted, that our common human nature binds us to every soul there, and our common baptism binds us to every Christian soul there and around the world, and to the divine life of the Holy Trinity, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in all His glory and power.
With this great power comes great responsibility. The lives and futures of one whom we know well, and millions whom we know by our shared human need for life and liberty, teeter precariously in the balance before our very eyes. We are not helpless spectators; let us pray.