The Essential Hope
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 15:15-20

How can we stay hopeful for a world where life is so often cheap and violent? How do we continue to believe that God is working through us for the fulfillment of creation’s promise when we see our own and others’ failures thwart God’s gift of life?

Can frustrated hope be the reason that generations of Christians have exchanged God’s promise of a just and loving earth to a promise of a glorious existence in the afterlife? Has history proved humans too fearful and self-centered to consistently care for our neighbor as we do for ourselves? Even with Jesus’ example, is it naïve to hope that we’ll ever face the choice between love and death and chose love? Are we incapable of the courage to find ourselves in our enemy? Will we always say, “Sure I’m a Christian, but . . . ?”

The biggest challenge of faith isn’t to believe in God or the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus or his presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Such beliefs cost us nothing; their presence or absence in our lives matter little to those around us. What matters is our willingness to anchor our behavior on the promise of Christ. After watching Christians fight over words and rituals for two millennia, it’s our ability to love others at a cost to ourselves that our world searches for. One-time grand gestures mean little. People seek a prolonged, consistent generosity of self from follows of Jesus.

Folks who’ve given up on faith haven’t cooled to some proposition or concept; they’ve despaired of ordinary people’s, especially Christians’, potential to rise above their private self-interest for a future larger than themselves. The self-immolator seeking a martyr’s glory is sad, not inspiring. The fighter willing to die for a cause as long as he can take ten bad guys with him is part of the problem, not the solution.

Many people can’t find the doctor, lawyer, politician, businessman, homemaker, teacher or entertainer whose life echoes and advances the promise of Jesus. Nor can they really believe that God is going to step in and, willy-nilly, save us from ourselves. It becomes difficult for them to hang on to their hope; sometimes almost impossible.

I’m offering a question, not a harangue. For what do we really hope? Why?