Apocalypse. Yes, it’s a strong word that for most people might bring to mind images of burned out buildings, empty streets, and the dark underbellies of storm clouds ribbed with flashes of lightning. Dirty little remnants of humanity lie huddled in farmhouses or patches of woods while zombies and armed zealots roam the cities with torches, turning over cars, punishing and pillaging anyone in their path. That’s pretty intense stuff, and might even remind you of the aftermath of the equally intense election this week in America. But it doesn’t quite capture the original meaning of the word apocalypse. It’s actually born from the Greek word “apokaluptein” which means to uncover, or reveal.
Now about that election. The recent shift in leadership in our country is certainly having apocalyptic effects, in this more ancient sense of the word. Much has been uncovered, and revealed: lots of raw emotions have simmered to the surface. As such, this rising is potentially good, for as Pope Francis recently said in his Joy of Love exhortation (directed to married couples, but we’ll direct it to all here) “Desires, feelings, emotions, what the ancients called ‘the passions’, all have an important place in (life). They are awakened whenever ‘another’ becomes present and part of a person’s life. It is characteristic of all living beings to reach out to other things, and this tendency always has basic affective signs: pleasure or pain, joy or sadness, tenderness or fear. They ground the most elementary psychological activity. Human beings live on this earth, and all that they do and seek is fraught with passion.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of Love, 143)
Now the bigger question is, what do we do with this passion? Eros, the Greek for passion, at its deepest level, is that “inner power that ‘attracts’ man to the true, the good, and the beautiful.” (St. John Paul II, TOB 47:5) But we’ve seen some pretty violent passion this week that’s neither good nor beautiful, from burning flags and effigies, to shouting hate and writing obscenities on walls and monuments, t-shirts and placards. But in the wise words of St. John Paul II, if man stops here at an undisciplined passion, he “does not experience that fullness of ‘eros,’ which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful…” (TOB 48:1) St. John Paul II when on to propose that when a person can set their passion “into the whole of the spirit’s deepest energies, it can also become a creative force; in this case, however, it must undergo a radical transformation” (TOB 39:2).
It has become abundantly and “apocalyptically” revealed that America is a land of passionate people. At the heart of this passion is a desire for something good; a desire for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in the words of our Declaration of Independence. This is our story, our history, and it is in the truest and deepest sense a love story. I believe that’s what this American “Apocalypse” is uncovering, and revealing, and purifying in us all. Our call to love our neighbor as ourselves. It brings to mind the passage from Luke 2:34-35, if I might tweak a few words, “Behold, this (election) is destined for the fall and rise of many in (America), and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” At the heart of every one of us lies this question, “Do I love my neighbor?” Do I even know them?
I suggest then that we allow this piercing of our hearts to uncover our deepest feelings, our passions and that we go deep within, with Christ, back to our roots, back to this simple and yet multifaceted question of love. We the people are called to this depth, so that our life and our loves can rise to the heights. And to those inalienable rights we hold to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and each are deserving first of our love and kindness.
Here are a few things I’ll be implementing in the coming years as the leadership shifts in these United States of America:
1. I will rekindle my love for this beautiful country, from sea to shining sea. I will celebrate the wonderful, dazzling natural diversity of these 50 states, celebrating the gift of it all in every season and teaching my children to do so as well. I will love this land without exploitation.
2. I will rekindle my love for every person I encounter, face to face, allowing a race, color and creed that is different from my own to teach me, to reveal to me the beauty of the human heart in its search for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I will love my neighbor without qualification.
3. I will deepen my prayer for our leaders, national and local, political and ecclesial, not succumbing to bitterness or cynicism but to becoming better and more respectful of the office despite any deficiency in their actions. “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
4. I will rededicate myself to becoming the best husband and father I can be, knowing that when I am right with God, my wife and my children in this most basic project of the family, that power is released into the wider world. “When things go well between man and woman, the world and history also go well.” (Pope Francis)
I pray you have a blessed Apocalypse, and may God bless America!
Bill Donaghy has spoken internationally on faith and the New Evangelization since 1999. Through his work with the Pontifical Mission Societies, Bill gave hundreds of talks on the spirituality of mission to young people throughout the greater Philadelphia area and beyond, creating a teaching and speaking ministry known as MissionMoment.org. He holds an Associates Degree in Visual Arts, a Bachelors in Philosophy and a Masters in Systematic Theology. In addition to his full-time work for the Theology of the Body Institute, Bill teaches at Immaculata University. He and his wife, Rebecca, live outside of Philadelphia, PA with their four children.