Hope. It is very difficult to live without hope.
As some of you know, a couple of years ago, I got lost in the desert. After an hour or so of walking, I came upon a gravel road, one used by recreational vehicles. That gave me hope that, if I followed this road, it would lead me out. After four more hours of walking, the gravel road dead-ended. I was still lost. I could easily have lost hope of ever getting out, except that, as it was dusk, I could see car lights way off in the distance. I thought, okay, in the morning I will walk in that direction and I will get out. Without that hope of getting out the next day, it would have been a long and scary night. As it was, I was calm. I had hope.
This is the season of hope. It is graduation time and commencement address as filled with upbeat thoughts. The graduates are being told, “You are the hope of the future.” “You will make our world a better place.” “Dream big dreams.”
Then later this year we will hear politicians tell us, “If I am elected….” And they try to fill us with hope, so we will vote for them.
Unfortunately, there is a problem keeping hope alive. The problem is our history. I would like hope for world peace, but the entire history of the human race is a history of wars and violence. Peace doesn’t seem likely.
I would like to hope for a world where poverty no longer existed. Almost sixty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.” Yet today our streets are lined with the homeless. Greed and injustice continue to trample down the poor, as always.
I would like to hope for a world where serious illnesses no longer existed. Yet today we are experiencing a pandemic.
Everywhere there are reasons for discouragement and despair. Where can we find hope?
Maybe we are hoping for too much. To hope for a world without war, without poverty, without sickness is to hope for a world without Calvary. And I don’t think that is going to happen. Even after the resurrection, there were still wars, poverty and sickness.
We pray, “Father, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
But deep down we know that the fullness of that kingdom can only be partially realized here on earth.
But maybe, just maybe, that “partial realization” can be increased. Maybe the odds can get better. Maybe this year’s graduating classes will inspire us to a world camaraderie never seen before, and to a new era of peace.
Maybe there are politicians and business leaders who will come forward to inspire us to greater justice and sharing, and mitigate poverty.
And maybe the many heroic doctors, nurses and care takers who are at this moment alleviating the suffering of millions who are sick, will inspire others to follow them.
Storms make trees sink deep roots. These are stormy times. To sink the deep root of hope can only come about by believing the words of Jesus.
In John’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples and us, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In Mark’s gospel Jesus says, “With God, all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” And in Mathew’s gospel, “I will be with you always, until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
First, we have to humble ourselves, admit that by ourselves we are helpless, and ask for help. Secondly, we have to say, “Thanks,” thanks for all the acts of peace, justice and compassion that are actively present among us, -- like our kitchen staff feeding the poor. Truly kingdom activity.
And thirdly, we have to let go and realize, as St. Paul tells the Romans, “For those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), even if you are lost in a desert.