Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On Hope

(This was the homily I gave at Mass today. I thought it might be of interest to readers of this blog).

“God our Father, life of the faithful, glory of the humble, happiness of the just, hear our prayer. Fill our emptiness with the blessing of this eucharist, the foretaste of eternal joy.”

That is the opening prayer for this liturgy. We are more than halfway to the solemnity of the Ascension. We have been meditating on the Resurrection of Christ, but it is time to move forward to His exaltation. They are part of the same mystery, and they are part of the mystery of our life in Christ. This life means that while we still live in the world, our hearts are set on heaven. The things of this life possess on a relative importance.

This has always been the case, but the Truth of this was revealed in a new way in Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension. We had hoped that there was a Resurrection because otherwise life can seem so meaningless, especially when it ends tragically and prematurely, when we lose things or persons whom we treasure, when the world falls apart and can’t be put back together we rightly long for heaven. We grow in hope…hopefully.

Hope is a theological virtue, but I’d like you to think back to the last time you heard anyone suggest hope as a remedy for life’s hardships. Hope has fallen on hard times.

About a month ago, I was asked to give a day of recollection talk to the Poor Clares. The topic was the evangelical counsels. I was a bit self-conscious when it came to preaching poverty to Poor Clares, but it turned out to be a good exercise. What I learned is that when we lack hope: when we despair and things seem pointless, we probably aren’t yet fully poor in relation to this world. We haven’t yet let go. It is a paradox, but one that is known by advertisers, of all people. They know that they can prey on the emptiness that we feel when life is scary, uncertain and so on. Their suggestion for a remedy is to stuff yourself full of all sorts of other things. Despair drives our economy. No wonder our nation is so rich in worldly things. Yet if we ever catch on that our emptiness is meant to be filled by God, we will never again dream of filling it with anything else.

On the contrary, when we resort to filling ourselves with things of this world, whether it be food, sex, money, personal projects, anger, the good opinions of others, co-dependencies, gossip, novelties…the list goes on and on today…what room is there left for the eucharist to fill, to give us a foretaste of our eternal blessedness? How will we accept the Word that Jesus brings, the Word that will unite us to God if we lack the room to receive it or the silence in which to hear it?

So if we find ourselves oppressed by a sense of emptiness, by fear or worry, by a nagging sense that it’s not worth it, let us take the opportunity to grow in hope; and let us ask ourselves, to what am I clinging? How can I let go of earthly things that Christ may carry me up with him to heaven? Let us examine ourselves as Christ comes to meet us today and free ourselves of whatever stands in the way of our receiving Him. And let us approach Him full of confidence that He will reward us with gifts beyond hope in eternal life.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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