Category Archives: hope

Comfort my people

Yesterday I received the news that a dear friend, whom I’ve known for about 30 years, has terminal cancer.

I last saw her in June when I went to Dubuque for the ordination of two men I knew when they were Iowa State students. I stayed with her and we got many chances to talk and share.

I called someone here in Honduras who is also a friend of Mary’s. As I told her the news tears came to my eyes and I got choked up.

Yesterday, I also finished spending two days with the Dulce Nombre parish assembly, which was actually a very hope-filled experience. We evaluated the year and made plans for next year. I’ll have a lot of work.

This morning, as I read the first reading from Isaiah (40: 1-5, 9-11), I felt sustained in the desert of my distress about Mary.

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom…

 The image of the Lord comforting us, carrying us in his arms, gives me hope – not for a miraculous cure, though I am praying to God for a cure (through the intercession of Archbishop Romero).

No, the reading from Isaiah gives me hope that God is there sustaining us, opening roads where there are none, making paths straight where they curve, providing us with light in the midst of darkness.

So this Advent will be different in one sense – the sadness at the illness of my friend makes the sadness of the world very personal for me.

But Advent will also be a time to reconnect with the sorrow and pain of those around me here in Honduras – especially when I move out to the countryside within two weeks.

In many ways we are always surrounded by the sorrows and the pain of the world and of our friends; but God provides us with signs of hope, signs that life conquers death and suffering – not in an easy way, but in the difficult ways of solidarity and conversion, which will let the light of God appear in our world.

Sweet hope

You have filled your people with sweet hope,
by prompting them to repent…
Wisdom 12: 19 

 It sometimes feels as if our world is overwhelmed with violence, with war, with poverty, and oppression and there is nothing we can do.

We sometimes want instant solutions that make things right overnight. We are like the servants in today’s parable of the wheat and weeds (Matthew 13: 24-30) who want to get rid of the weeds – once and for all.

But God works differently, slowly, quietly, in subtle ways. God works like leaven.

As José Pagola comments, in Following in the Footsteps of Jesus:

 The kingdom of God comes about like the leaven that a woman “hides” in the dough so that the whole mass gets fertilized. That’s how God acts. He does not come from the outside to impose his power like the emperor of Rome, but to transform human life from within in a silent and hidden manner.

This is the way God acts: he does not impose, but transforms; does not dominate, but attracts. Thus, those who work with him in his project must act like leaven by bringing in his truth, his justice and his love in a humble way, but with transforming power.

We are called to be the leaven in the dough, helping God’s love become present in our world.

In this way, we can become grains of God’s hope in a world that so needs to see God working among us, planting hope and prompting us to repent of all that keeps this from happening.

 

Hope while chained

…it is on account of the hope of Israel
that I wear these chains.
Acts 28:20 

These words of Paul in Rome struck me this morning.

Mosaic, St.Paul outside the walls

Mosaic, St.Paul outside the walls

Paul sees his work – among Jews and gentiles – as a source of hope for God’s people. Even his chains provide hope, since they are signs of his commitment.

How hard it is to find hope in the midst of suffering – but Paul did so.

Hope sustained him and kept him confident and free from self-pity.

What hope sustains me? What hope will enable me to bear suffering? What hope will bring me joy?

For me, it is the hope of the people here in Honduras for a life that is full of love and solidarity, where life reflects the Reign of God, where violence and poverty no long oppress them.

What hope sustains you?

 

A word of hope

In the middle of Lent the Church offers in today’s first reading, Isaiah 65: 17-21, a message of hope:  “I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth.” This seems so out of place in Lent.

But it is a message I needed to hear.

Yesterday, coming back from San Agustín with Padre German, we encountered cars stopped on the dirt road outside Caleras.

A man had been killed and his body lay in the middle of the road, a puddle of blood by his neck.

The police were there, keeping people away, and waiting for the fiscal – the public prosecutor – to come and verify the facts of the death.

We approached and looked on the dead man and then left to get to town by another route.

I was left with a great sadness – another person killed, another family grieving.

But Isaiah promises that in the new Jerusalem, “No longer shall be heard the sound of weeping or the cry of distress.”

That is the promise I needed to hear. A promise – but also a task for us here, and everywhere in the world where there is death and pain and suffering: to offer a word of hope.

 

Hope of transformation

All creation is groaning…
Romans 8: 22 

Today’s readings (Romans 8: 18-25; Luke 13: 18-21) are full of hope, reminding us of the marvelous power of God to transform all things.

Yesterday in our weekly devotional in Caritas someone said that we are all sinners by nature. I didn’t say anything directly, but I think this view forgets that when God made all things, God saw that they were very good.

Yes, there is sin. That is the source of the evil and much of the suffering around us. But God made us in the divine image – and how can that be evil.

We talk about original sin – and rightly so. The sin of thinking ourselves in control, making ourselves like gods, affects all humanity and all creation.

But the promise is that glory will be revealed in us. As Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of the present time cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8: 18)

Some might see this as a promise of glory after death. But I wonder if God’s glory is not also made manifest this side of the grave.

And in the Gospel Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard see and to leaven – small, yet capable of greatness and of transformation. A little yeast can transform a seemingly lifeless mass of dough into a great light loaf of bread.

There are signs of God’s glory all around us: the family that struggles to care for children with special needs, the farmer who struggles in the field every day to feed the family, the mother who gives birth to a children and nourishes the child at the breast, the young doctor and his wife who give a year to work among the poor before he goes into residency, the child who shares her candy with a stranger.

These are not types. They are persons I know who have shown me the Glory of God, even in the midst of pain and poverty.

Today, let our hearts me open to see where God is letting creation give birth to hope, to new life, to “the redemption of our bodies” – not just in the future, but now.

 

Hope for the poor

The lowly will find increasing joy in the Lord;
and those most in need will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 29: 19

 The Advent readings from the prophet Isaiah are filled with hope, often a hope for that poor: they will find joy and salvation in the Lord.

All too often I think we hope for things for ourselves and miss the community sense of hope. Hope is not something I can just get on my own. It needs the loving hand of God and the presence of a community.

We are social creatures and need others. When we really hope for something we don’t sit back and just wait for it.

Hope is an expectant waiting, like a pregnant mother, who gets ready for the coming of a child into the world. And mothers know that they need others to help them bring new life into the world.

So too we should prepare ourselves and the world for the coming of the Lord – and in the course of that help bring joy and hope to the neediest among us.

Yesterday I spent the morning in a rural village that was initiating a water project that Caritas had managed, with the help of money from Holland. The people were organized, worked hard together, and now had water they could drink out of the faucet.

This is a poor community, seemingly without resources. But their faith, their sense of community, and their efforts to work together had made clean, drinkable water a reality (with the help of a good bit of money).

The celebration was filled with joy – Mass, blessing of the new water tank, skits, songs written by community members, and food.

DSC03735

There was joy for the neediest there – thanks be to God. Let us find ways this Advent to see the joy the Lord brings and share it with the neediest among us.

—–

More photos from the event can be found here,

Hope in darkness

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God…
he comes to save you.
Isaiah 35: 4

 December is a gloomy month, even here in Honduras. The rainy season is still holding on and the nights are often cold. Poverty continues to plague the poor and the government seems incapable of doing anything to deal with the poverty and the violence.

In other parts of the world, the economic crisis leaves people struggling to feed their families and to keep their homes.

But in the midst of all this, the Advent message is one of hope, but not a disembodied hope. It is a hope that looks for the signs of God’s grace breaking through the darkness and responds with deeds of hope, sowing the seeds of God’s love and grace in the world, through acts of love and justice – strengthening feeble hands, encouraging those who live in fear.

From the darkness of his prison in the darkness of Nazi Germany, Father Alfred Delp, SJ, wrote these words of hope, which are a challenge for all of us today:

 The first thing we want to do if we want to be alive is to believe in the golden seed of God that the angels have scattered and still offer to open hearts. The second thing is to walk through these gray days oneself as an announcing messenger. So many need their courage strengthened, so many are in despair and in need of consolation, there is so much harshness that needs a gentle hand and an illuminating word, so much loneliness crying out doe a word of release, so much loss and pain in the search of inner meaning. God’s messengers know of the blessing that the Lord has cast like seed into these hours of history. Understanding this world in the light of Advent means to endure in faith, waiting for the fertility of the silent earth, the abundance of the coming harvest. Not because we put our trust in the earth but because we have heard God’s message and have met one of God’s announcing angels ourselves.

***

This selection from Fr. Alfred Delp, SJ, is taken from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, first published by Plough Publishing, now published by Orbis Books.