I think most of us have heard the Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, i.e. even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point; something which begins with one first step.
But, the problem is often taking that first step. Discouragement can prevent us from taking that first step…. “ hey, this journey is too long, too difficult…. I’m too weak , I don’t like to suffer…. I’d rather have a beer and hotdog and think about the journey…. maybe tomorrow… life stinks anyway, why bother…..bla, bla, bla.”
Sometimes when I think about all the problems of our world… big problems …. “thousand mile problems”, I can ask myself, “what can I do…. what difference can I make. I’m reluctant to take that first step, to make my contribution to the solution of the problems.
There’s a Discovery Channel series called, “ALONE”. In it an individual is dropped off on some remote and unforgiving location. As the boat or helicopter takes off, they are ALONE…. no film crew (he films himself). While they do get to bring 10 items, they can’t bring a gun or food. They must survive the elements, the bears, wolves, find food, freezing temperatures. 10 individuals participate; the last one standing wins $500,000. Often they lose 30-50-80 pounds. On day one, they need to take the first step on a “thousand mile” journey. Some “tap out” after one day…. some last for months.
I’m almost finished reading a book by Cardinal Robert Sarah, “The Day Is Now Far Spent”, in which he lays out very conclusively that Western society and culture are on their last legs. He says that “all civilizations that ignore the imminent dignity of the human person have vanished…. the rejection of life, the murder of pre-born children, the murder of the handicap and elderly, the demolition of the family and of moral and spiritual values: all this is the first act in the tragedy of the suicide of an entire people.” (“The Day Is Far Spent”, Robert Cardinal Sarah, Chapter 9, Europe’s Crisis, pg. 225) In this 342 page book, he lists fact after fact…it’s at times overwhelming. What is the solution to this “Funeral March of Decadence” (Chapter 15), to this “thousand or million mile journey”. What can I do? What first step can I take? Listen to the Cardinal who gives us some good encouragement.
He says, “I have no new programs…the program already exists…it is the plan found in the gospel and in the living tradition…it is the same as ever.” (ibid Ch. 17, pg. 299) He then speaks to Christian families, “I want to tell all Christian parents that they are the glory of the church in the 21st century: your witness is sometimes a daily martyrdom. You must confront the contempt of the world when you choose to give life…. Your mission is great. You bear the hope of the world and of the church. Stand firm ! Cling to your faith…. you are sowing seeds of hope…. Soon the harvest will spring up.” (ibid, Ch.17,page 309)
We don’t need to solve the problems of the world… that’s God’s job. We just need to take our next step. We just need to live our vocations as Christians… as singles and religious, as parents. “Our mission is great. Let’s stand firm and cling to faith… we are sowing seeds of hope… soon harvest will spring up.” And that is very good news.