Speaking hope into division and unrest

Author: Fr David Oakley

Speaking hope into division and unrest

Brexit and the US presidential elections have revealed deep divisions in western society. Fr David Oakley says now is the time to speak hope into people’s unrest.

I often hear people talk about a golden age when everything was better than it is today.

Older people sometimes speak of an earlier time when our society seemed a safer place to live and churches were full of families.

But is the world we live in really any different – any better or worse than the world in years gone by?

I love Christmas Mass, and especially the opening words of the Gospel, ‘Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census - the first - took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.’ (Lk 2.1)

You might as well say today, Caesar Trump issued a decree… this took place whilst Teresa May was prime minister…

Salvation in the world

Salvation history doesn’t unfold apart from the world’s history, but precisely within it. And come to think of it, Syria is still very much in the news today.

Disciples of Jesus believe that God has a plan for our world. We know this plan as salvation history.

This salvation history doesn't unfold apart from the history of events and happenings in our mad world. If we believed that, then we would seek to escape all this and run away to some holy safe place.

To be honest with you, I sometimes wonder why God doesn’t intervene more directly when tyrants destroy innocent lives and are unopposed.

It is difficult to resist the growing feelings of insecurity and uncertainty that are viral infections in the human condition.

Talking of infections, there is so much technology to help us today, so many material resources, and yet according to one author, our developed world societies suffer from a viral-like condition known as affluenza.

We have never had it so good in material terms, and yet we are seemingly unable to discover happiness and contentment.

Recent research suggests that the majority of people struggle to find enough rest time in their lives. Other research indicates a reason for this restlessness, about the same percentage of people consult their smart phones during the middle of the night.

Even disciples of Jesus can be caught up in this materialistic mentality. Trust me on this one, you are reading the words of a reformed consumer addict.

God in the chaos

The truth is that the world has always been a dangerous place, certainly since that moment when our first parents decided to rebel against God’s will.

But more importantly, ever since chaos came into the world, the God we have come to know and trust has always been at work, trying to sort out the mess and breathing new life into our human experience. 

Jesus was born into a world of turmoil. On the day he left this world, his message to his friends was clear: go back to Jerusalem and prepare to be clothed with power from on high, in order to engage with mission.

The Gospel gives us the blueprint for mission. We are not to wallow in confusion, to be swept away by the challenges of this world.

In the power of the Spirit, we have work to do, to change the world by living ourselves in the Kingdom of God. 


  • Fr David Oakley is the rector of Oscott College, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

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