Sunday, December 04, 2016

What is hope? Where is our hope anchored? (Sunday homily)

In the second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, 
he said that the Scriptures were written for us 
“that we might have hope.”

What is hope?

Elsewhere in this same letter, Saint Paul explained that 
The gaze of hope is fixed on that which lies ahead--
it isn’t something you already have.
That’s why it’s true to say that in heaven, there is no hope!

Sounds strange to say, doesn’t it?
But it’s true: if we make it to heaven, and we have the fullness of life,
the enjoyment of God’s love and beauty and truth--
if we have all that, then at that point, what would we hope for? 
Heaven is the hope!

So: hope looks forward.

But then the question comes to mind:
just what do we fix our hope on?
Is it really true that heaven is what we are hoping for?

I think a lot of folks around us set their hopes a lot lower.
A few years ago, I saw a survey about the British people,
that something like a quarter of them say,
well, there might be a God,
but they don’t think they can know anything about God for sure.

I didn’t find a survey for the U.S.,
But lots of people here think the same thing, don’t they?

So what that means is that if we have
some hope of good after this life,
it ends up being pretty vague.

So let me ask you – is that really hope? 

In the meantime, what we see around us,
what we can obtain here, all that is pretty definite.
So that’s what a lot of people focus on.

Let me give some examples of how we do that.

When we look at what’s on TV, or in the movies, 
or in whatever else we turn to for entertainment: 
how much is about what heaven is like – 
versus, what your next meal, or your next vacation looks like?

How much of our time do we spend with reading or entertainment 
that turns our gaze to what ultimately matters?
How much of our time is about the ephemeral and not the eternal?

Hope is an anchor we cast forward. 
Where have we anchored our hope:
In our job? Our own abilities and plans? 
In political candidates and causes?

Without realizing it, we fix our hopes here, in this world..
We set our sights on finding happiness here.
And the more we do that, do you realize what that means?
We’re people without hope--
because, as Saint Paul said, hope is what we look forward to;
but if we have everything we think we want,
there’s nothing left to hope for.

Pope Francis, in the letter he wrote a few years ago,
called the “Joy of the Gospel,”
talks about the “great danger in today’s world,
pervaded as it is by consumerism,”
which leads to “the desolation and anguish
of a complacent yet covetous heart…

“Whenever our interior life becomes caught up
in its own interests and concerns,”
he writes--and with the “pursuit of frivolous pleasures,”
there is no longer “room for others,” for doing good;
and in fact, God’s voice is no longer heard.

This is where celibacy, in Christianity, is unique.
In other religions, it’s about denial.
In Buddhism, the goal is the negation of all desire.
But not in Christianity!

For us, celibacy is about the resurrection.
It’s about expectation--and hope!

If you’re on your way to a great dinner,
You don’t stop and eat on the way.

And therefore, when people see that you passed up
a really splendid, extraordinary dinner,
then that means
what you’re waiting for must be truly awesome!

That’s what it means for a brother, a sister and a priest 
who passes up marriage and family; 
it’s a sign that they’ve cast their anchor all the way to heaven.
Which reminds each of us to do the same in our own lives.

And, speaking of our religious sisters, 
remember them in the second collection next week; 
this is for their retirement fund, which needs bolstering. 

It isn’t for the parish – we have needs too, 
as I explained two weeks ago. 

It isn’t for priests of the archdiocese, 
it isn’t for my retirement; but rather, 
for those sisters and brothers 
who gave everything away to serve Christ. 
Many here were taught by nuns, 
including in Russia School at one time!
This is a way we can repay them.

But to return to the theme of hope, 
I want to say something about eternity.
It’s hard to know what eternal life might be like; 
it’s hard to visualize. 
But let me offer a theory: if we aren’t looking for something,
it’s a lot less likely that we’ll find it. 
Do you think that’s true? 
If we aren’t looking for something, we are far less likely to see it.

If someone told you there was a mineral, a rock, 
in the ground, around here, 
that’s very valuable – it’s needed for computers and medical research – 
and if you could find just small quantities of it, 
you would make a really big profit. 
And if you decided to go into that business, 
what would be the first thing you’d do?

Wouldn’t your first step be to find out 
what that mineral looked like?
In fact, wouldn’t you try to find out 
everything you could about it?

Well, there’s a place called heaven, 
and there’s a Savior named Jesus, 
whose our only sure way to get there. 
So our first step is kind of obvious, isn’t it?

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