Now and Forever

The Psalm from today’s Mass asks if we are aware of the foundation of Hope in our lives.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts,that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call. (Eph 1:17-18)

Depend, rely, trust, hope – all synonyms, but each one brings its own nuance. But all generally carry the same questions. Do we depend on a what or who? Upon what or whom do we rely? Where do we place our trust? Upon whom do we trust? And the same questions surround “hope.” What do we hope for? Who do we hope in?

We hope in ourselves when we have expectations that we will get that promotion at work because of the hard work that we have done. We hope that the politicians we just voted for will be one who can make a difference. We hope it rains; we hope it doesn’t rain. Come the new year we just might hope that this will be the year our economic fortunes are brighter. We hope our children grow up safe and happy. We hope that we can describe the thinger-ma-bob to the guy at the hardware store because we hope to fix the do-hickey that broken in the kitchen sink at home. We are a hopeful people …. About what? About whom?

Psalm 131 is not too long – not the shortest psalm, but one of the shortest. It is one of the easier to memorize… yet somehow, it is one of the hardest to learn how to live. At its core, this psalm speaks of Hope in the Lord – the one in whom we find our rest

LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul, Like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul
Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.

The Psalmist tells us that we need to wean ourselves from the small hopes upon which we too often focus: hopes in ourselves, in things, in luck, in all the what’s and the who’s in which we will never ultimately find rest. As simply as he can, the Psalmist tells us to hope in God.

Because it is in God, that we can find a Hope that inspires us, sustains us, anchors us and lifts us. Hope that is a shield held against despair and a weapon against fear. Hope that holds out the vision of eternal life and sustains us in everyday life.

Sustains us but not in a naïve way. It is not a Poly Pureheart hope with heads-in-the-clouds, and there is always happy ending. Biblical hope does not deny the everyday reality of illness or death or ignore the human conditions of sin, loneliness and fear. It does not mean that our lives are easy and our difficulties few. It does not mean the thinga-ma-bob will fix the do-hickey.

Even we who hope in the Lord may suffer seeing the promotion go to someone else; suffer another day without work; a day when illness grows more burdensome – another day another burden is piled on top of what seems a pile already overflowing. Here is what I know: if God can bring blessing from the broken body of Jesus and glory from something that’s as obscene as the cross, He can bring blessing from my problems and my pain and my unanswered prayer.

Biblical hope teaches us that loneliness, sin, betrayal, death – none of they have the final word. Biblical hope teaches us that we have sinned and yet we are already redeemed. That grace has broken into the world – even if some parts of the world resist.

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