19 December 2012

Hope with endurance

NB.  By request:  a non-Advent homily on hope!  

30th Week OT (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Sometimes planted seeds die in the ground. Sometimes yeast will not leaven wheat flour for bread. For those of us who are not farmers or bakers we could add: sometimes laptops do not boot up; sometimes buses do not run on time; sometimes you get a “C” in Latin. We experience the failure of potential to be fulfilled everyday. Essays go unwritten. Books and articles for class go unread. Chances to forgive and ask for forgiveness pass us by. So accustomed are we to mishaps, lapses, and near-misses that we have adapted ourselves to work around them, to count them as features of doing business in a world not yet perfected by God's grace. If there's any grand purpose in failure, it is this: who we are made to be in Christ is made all that much clearer, all that much more starkly evident. For those of us who are saved by hope, living in the middle of the contrast between what is and what could be hones the good habits of endurance so that our inevitable trials are not merely endured but enjoyed, celebrated as signs of what we have yet to achieve with Christ. The mustard seed will germinate and grow. The yeast will rise to leaven the bread. 

Paul, writing to the Romans, asks: “. . .who hopes for what one sees?” We do not hope that the bus arrives on time when we see it arriving on time. We do not hope that our laptop will boot up when we see it booting up. Hoping for success when we see success in action is irrational. So, Paul adds, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” Notice here that he qualifies how we wait, “with endurance.” We do not hope, waiting impatiently, or angrily, for what we do not see. While we hope for what we do not see, we wait with strength, resolution; with guts and grit, with moxie and mettle. We dare failure to do its worst, and still we hope. But we must remember, lest we sound arrogant, we must remember: we do not hope in the works of our hands, or the words of our mouths; we hope in the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in His Word alone. It is only in the Kingdom of God that the mustard seed always grows, that the yeast always leavens. And only in His Kingdom that our failure might be counted as success. 

Paul writes, “. . .in hope we were saved.” Saved from what? From whom? We are saved from despairing over our inevitable mistakes; from collapsing under the weight of temptation and sin; from suffering for the sake of suffering; we are saved from the one who would rejoice if we were to abandon eternal life for endless death; from the one who wishes us nothing but disorder, disease, insanity, and pain. The most marvelous deed that our Lord has done for us is to free us from all that binds us to the one who would kill us out of envy and spite. We are saved from his eternal failure. We are planted, watered, and fed so that all we can do is grow and thrive; all we can do is season and leaven this world. Therefore, choose to hope, or hopelessness will be chosen for you. 

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