As we start another week, there is a lot going on that will bring us face-to-face with the choice between hope and despair. This past weekend’s events in Charlottesville only highlights an encounter with another choice. Despair by far is the easiest choice. A little over 150 years ago, a civil war ended in our nation, and the hope was that we would be a nation dedicated to the self-evident proposition and truth “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” A little over 70 year ago, men and women of the “greatest generation” arose from the ashes of a world-wide depression, went to work and war, to defeat the Nazi regime that was dedicated to their proposition that not all are created equal, not all are entitles to life, liberty or happiness.
I cannot imagine what the WWII vet thinks seeing Nazi flags paraded in our streets. Was it all for nothing?
I do not pretend to know the depths of feelings experienced by the civil rights leaders and people of color think when they see the Confederate Battle flag paraded alongside the 20th century flag of genocide. Was Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham and all that followed just for naught?
Despair is the easier choice.
Every one of us has moments when all we had worked for, hoped for, is becoming the very sword that pierces our hearts. When the future we had envisioned, dissolves into the unwanted days-to-come.
And now in our own unwanted days, the words of 1 Peter 3:15 ring ever more loudly: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”
And perhaps you are asking yourself, “what does this have to do with the Solemnity of the Assumption?” Everything. I can think of no better person to give answer to St. Peter’s challenge. The Blessed Virgin Mary lived in unwanted days. She was Jew living in occupied Israel under the thumb of pax Romana, enforced by the Roman legions. She bore the stigma of being from Galilee and Nazareth, and as the old saying goes, “What good can come from Galilee?” She was a woman. She was 14-15 years old, unmarried and pregnant. Angels announcing good news is all fine and good, but what now? She was one whisper away from being stoned to death.
Despair is the far easier choice. But Mary chose Hope, the Hope that forces you to believe in a bigger, loving God in the midst of a world that seems to be falling apart as the cycle of violence consumes the world.
Mary chose Hope, focusing on ever-moving toward God even while rooted firmly in the world. Hope was her anchor when she was adrift as a refugee fleeing to Egypt with Joseph and the baby Jesus. She held onto Hope when the child Jesus was lost in the Temple. She rooted herself in Hope during the public ministry and the growing opposition. She chose Hope in the face of the scouring and the Cross.
And Hope was not a passive waiting. Hope was the catalyst for action.
The Hope of a Messiah was the foundation of her “yes” to the Angels annunciation
That Hope led her to the hill country and her cousin Elizabeth
That Hope led her to praise God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”
After a life of choosing Hope, when her earthly life was complete, Hope himself took her body and soul into heaven.
On this Solemnity of the Assumption, we are reminded that Jesus is our Hope, and his mother Mary the model of living as a person of Hope. We are called by our God to be like Mary in the way she followed Christ, so that we too, when our earthly days are finished, we will join Mary and the Saints in eternal praise of God.
Like Mary, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”