Elsewhere in this same letter, Paul explained that
the gaze of hope is fixed on that which lies ahead--
it isn’t something you already have.
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?
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.
What that means is that if we have some hope of good after this life,
it ends up being pretty vague.
In the meantime, what we see around us,
what we can obtain here, all that is pretty definite.
How can we help doing that?
I don’t really what heaven, or God, or eternity, looks like. Do you?
So it’s very difficult to have any concrete ideas.
Meanwhile, you and I know exactly what dinner looks like.
The danger is that we become people without hope--
because instead of having our focus on what lies ahead,
we focus on what this life offers – and what’s 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,”
is that we end up with a “complacent yet covetous heart”;
Where our “interior life becomes caught up
in its own interests and concerns,” and there’s no room left;
And we can’t hear God speak to us.
This is where the strange practice of celibacy fits in.
Lots of people simply don’t get it.
Why should brothers and sisters and priests remain celibate?
The answer is that it is a sign of what we hope for.
If you’re on your way to a once-in-a-lifetime dinner,
Would you stop to eat on the way? Of course not.
So when people see us priests and religious
passing up something great – which marriage is –
then it points to the something greater still
we must be looking forward to.
Celibacy means casting our anchor all the way to heaven.
Not everyone is called to celibacy;
but every Christian, in his or her own way,
is called to give some sign of that same hope –
that our hope lies ahead, not here.
That’s what you and I do when we obey God’s law;
when we embrace penance; when we reject worry;
when you and I care for the poor, expecting nothing back;
and when we choose forgiveness and reconciliation over vengeance.
Those are ways we tell the world:
You and I are looking forward to something better.
And, speaking of our religious sisters,
remember them in the second collection today;
this is for their retirement fund, which needs bolstering.
Many here were taught by nuns,
including in Russia School at one time!
This is a way we can repay them.
One more point about hope.
It seems to me that if we are looking for something,
It’s a lot harder if we have no idea what it looks like.
If someone told you there was a mineral
in the ground around here that’s very valuable,
and if you wanted to start collecting it,
what would be the first thing you’d do?
Wouldn’t you find out everything you could about this stuff,
what it was like, and how to get it?
Well, there’s a place called heaven
and Jesus is our only way to get there.
So our first step is kind of obvious, isn’t it?