The following reflection ran in the Calvert bulletin on 27 February. It’s very appropriate to the situation. In reality, I had written almost all of this in late January, anticipating March 1 and the next topic. It’s based on the following three pieces of scripture:
Revelation 21:1-6 and 22:1-5.
Ninth week is starting, the winter has been harsh, and things can look pretty bleak about now. In the reading at Mass, Paul wrote about the trinity of great theological virtues, faith, hope, and love. Given the time of year and quarter, it’s very appropriate to start with hope, our Christian Hope. The best definition I’ve seen is the following:
“The resting of the heart on God, with full trust that He always cares for our salvation, and will give us the happiness He has promised.”
The two passages from Revelation describe the eventual fulfillment of that promise. “The Lord will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain …” It’s marvelous poetry and a brilliant bit of inspired text. The author John manages to describe at least part of what we will receive in the Kingdom to come, with the return of the Messiah. Sometimes called the eschatological (or end-time) hope, it’s a powerful message. Through the cross, Jesus has demonstrated caring for our salvation. Through Resurrection, he pointed the way to salvation, and this wonderful world to come. Believing in that eternal message, and resting our heart in it, is a very useful thing to ponder this week.
Yet there’s more to hope. When I read these Revelation passages, I’m reminded of a book. No, not Left Behind; rather, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. At the end, the protagonist Montag is searching his mind for something to help his fellow travellers, to make the trip a little easier. He chooses this passage. “And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Why this bit? It entwines eternal hope with the other type, temporal hope. As the definition states, God cares for our salvation and happiness. That care is not only in the future. It is also in the present. By choosing that passage, and choosing it to help others, Montag reminds us of hope here and now.
This temporal hope can be very hard to find, particularly in Hyde Park, particularly right now. Cold, wind, clouds, snow, darkness, grey walls, papers, readings, projects, problem sets, dissertations – who doesn’t see this? It’s so, so easy to get lost, turn away, and lose the assurance of God’s care. That’s sad. But not only sad, it drives the heart away from the Lord, and towards hell – once accurately described as the total absence of hope, the tactile proof of despair.
The mission for the week can be to perform acts of hope, that by bringing it to others, it also comes closer to us. Assuring people of God’s love is not simple. It’s certainly not walking around Hyde Park shouting “Jesus loves you!” No, there are many better ways. Occasionally, it’s a massive gesture, like holding his hand when he’s crying or answering her frantic midnight knock. More commonly, it’s smaller things: complimenting someone in discussion; smiling; inviting the quiet neighbor to tea; setting a small bag of chestnuts at the door.
Montag’s searching and speaking is one of those actions. I don’t know how the travellers felt later in that day, when he spoke the words and they considered them. The book doesn’t say. In my mind, I want the intent to came through, that they could trust in God and believe in his caring. And I want it to be true for all of us.