Dont Give Up Hope 2017

Don’t Give Up Hope

Another week when the unfortunate events that have unfolded have changed the first page of the bulletin. While the Cubs are in the playoffs and Autumn is in the air, my hope was to reflect on the scriptures with you in a playful subtle way. The “stone which the builder rejected” connection between Jesus-and-Luke-Skywalker-as-the-forgotten-outsiders-who-managed-heroic-feats was the plan for our weekly reflection. I’d have to draw a distinction between the works of history and a narrative of fiction, but that would be easy enough to do. All of those plans changed when last Sunday’s tragedy in Las Vegas hit, an event that we wish was fictional but is more and more part of our country’s narrative.

When trying to find the message from the prescribed readings on any given Sunday, it is my custom to focus on the First Reading and the Gospel. They are usually tied together and selected to reflect a common theme or movement of God’s revelation. As a church, we’ve had several hundred years to get the pairing of scriptures between the First Reading and the Gospel just right, but we have only had around 50 years to get the Second Reading right. The Second Reading was added after the Second Vatican Council and the reading doesn’t always match up as neatly.

But this week, I don’t know if there are any better words to reflect upon than what we find in the Second Reading. It is a messy world and relentless dismay has battered us. From hurricanes to race relations to gun tragedies, there seems to be an onslaught of continuous despair in our country.

And in the fury, we proclaim Saint Paul’s words,

 

Finally, brothers and sisters,

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable,

Whatever is just, whatever is pure,

Whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,

If there is any excellence

And if there is anything worthy of praise

Think about these things. (Phil 4:7-8)

 

Scholars point out that when Saint Paul wrote those words, he was in prison facing trial. He had reluctantly complied to participate in a ritual purification in the temple of Jerusalem at the behest of his friends (the Apostles). He didn’t necessarily agree with them on this matter but afterwards what made it worse was that a violent mob was incited by the ritual purification. Subsequently, the authorities took Saint Paul into prison. He was scorned by both ends of the crossroad that entangled his life. Not exactly the place from which most of us would write such dulcet assurances.

One wonders though, if it wasn’t Saint Paul’s ability to focus on what was true, honorable, just, and pure that got him through? His bold assertion to believe in beauty and gratitude in defiance of calamity may have been the catalyst that transformed his agony into hope rather than transferred it into spite. In the midst of the voracious whirlwind of chaos, Saint Paul was able to hedge off despair by centering his thoughts on what was good and excellent. He was also able to advise us to do the same.

Saint Paul’s message is resilient and purposeful for us today. We cannot give up hope. We cannot yield to the shadowed forces that oppress our world. It is certainly a time to grieve and we should not recoil from allowing ourselves to feel the weight of sadness hovering upon our world, but it is also a time to surround ourselves with beauty, with graciousness, and with the glow of optimism that faith brings. Even in Saint Paul’s darkest hours, his faith anchored him. We are invited to do the same.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

 

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.