Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
A Word of Hope
Today is Groundhog Day, traditionally the day a small animal’s fear determines the arrival or delay of spring depending on whether it emerges from its deep burrow and flees from its own shadow or not. Coincidentally, it’s also a day that several small towns on the east coast, notably in Pennsylvania, sponsor huge, high-profit events centered on anxiously awaiting the early morning movements of a pampered captive groundhog (or woodchuck) in the town square. The rest of the year, the prophet becomes the prey when the same people spend a lot of their time trying to trap and kill the same animals to protect their flower beds. We are a nation of ironies.
No one knows exactly when and where the tradition of shadow-shocked groundhogs started and, truly, its own shadow is probably the last thing the little woodchucks would fear. In the wild, they avoid the usual list of small predators such as foxes, wolverines, and coyotes, but humans are the primary danger to their survival. It is much more likely that the woodchuck in the town square is hiding from a crowd of the world’s most dangerous predators rather than from its own shadow.
The little animal is actually a projection of our own fears and these days we have a generous collection of them; fears of serious illness or death, fear of loss of financial security, fear of the unknown. High on the list of the fears of many is the fear of learning something new that might threaten the comfort they maintain by hiding in the deep burrow of their own ignorance. Their fears are science, higher education, and anyone who looks somehow different than they do. I’m sure you can easily add to the list.
I personally don’t fear a lot of things. I have experienced and survived my share of harrowing or uncertain times that have left me with the certainty that “God is with me wherever I go” but I do have a healthy fear of ignorance and its predominance our recent history. In “A Christmas Carol”, Dickens depicts the Ghost of Christmas Present lifting his robes to reveal two gaunt and cowering children. The spirit says to Scrooge, “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy.”
Whether it’s a belief in the magical predictions of a small animal or the unquestioned ramblings of false prophets, ignorance is the scourge of our time. Dickens’ warning must not be ignored. Always beware that boy but, be willing to relieve the suffering of that girl. We can be the instrument of change. As we work together to sustain and educate others, we must never lose faith that God is always there beside us.
May we hear and listen to your commandment. Make us steadfast and courageous on our journey together with you.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare