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TO HOPE AGAINST ALL HOPE

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The world does not lack hope, but the hope of some is not always that of the others. For example, the hope of the Israelis is not the same as the hope of the Palestinians, the hope of the youth is not that of the elders, and the hope of the poor is light years away from the hope of the rich.

In the Church, things are not much different. The hope of the Lefebvre followers, to name only one, does not at all coincide with mine. The hope of those who try to articulate the Gospel with the values of the modern world is surely not the one of an aging pope who has a hard time to hide his antipathy for a world that is not his.

In the past, in the Church, hope was to go to heaven. Even if we were quibbling with one another about the ways of going there, everybody agreed on that. But would that be only what there is about Christian hope?

 

Christian hope

What was the hope of Jesus, of Peter, of Paul and of the first Christian communities?

Let us go back to Abraham, the « father of believers ». « He hoped against all hope » (Romans 4:18) to own his own land, to have many babies, to win his wars, to become rich and prosperous and that his God would win over all other gods. Moses' hope for his people was not different from that of Abraham, nor that of Caleb, the kings, the prophets or the wise.

And so, what was the hope of Jesus?

Jesus greatly hoped for the coming in the world of a Kingdom with a big «K», a Kingdom where God would be Master and Lord, and yet, not a savage, mean, secretive and sectarian God suspicious of his creature... but a God whose measure of compassion, tolerance, tenderness and forgiveness is without measure, and who hopes (yes, God also hopes) that all the humans made in his image will adopt among themselves the same behavior as his own behavior.

In short, a God who «hopes» for the end of this world where the big ones are eating the little ones. A God who says: « The last of the marginals on earth is me!» A God who wants justice (do you believe?) and so freedom, prosperity and happiness for everybody without exception, and not for four or five cats only... in addition to eternal life!

Jesus was hoping that that Kingdom would come during his life. He thought that he would see it with his two eyes and his disciples would be its witnesses. But events did not prove him right. His hope was cruelly disappointed. Instead of seeing the end of the triumph of the big ones over the little ones, it is he himself who ended on a cross.

In our real world made of atoms, it is like that: the big ones always win. How not surrender to despair?

 

Wrong computations

No question of being discouraged! shouts Peter. Things will change. God has no calendar nor any clock like us. For him everything is eternally present. What has not yet happened is already there (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Just as spring is already at work under the winter ice, so it is with the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus.

That Kingdom, Peter and the first Christians are expecting it with all their soul. They watch the hour when that world will melt like ice under the sun to give place to a « new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells ». (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Still, the world does not dissolve itself. The new heaven and the new earth are still being awaited for... Justice also!

Paul also hopes for the end of the old world and the imminent arrival of the new world. That is why he hastens to criss-cross the Roman empire in all directions with the hope to win the largest possible number of people to the world that is coming. But that new world does not yet show itself. Paul has to revise his mathematics...He attempts a new approach.

From now on, he begins to speak about the old man and the new one. He affirms that the return of Christ and the coming of the Kingdom are the fruits of an internal revolution.

There is in our intimate being a part of ourselves which remains attached to a pile of things that are proper to that ancient world which crucified Jesus; the obscure part of our being has to be nailed on the cross so that is born in us, with the Risen One, a totally new being identified to the great values of the Gospel (Ephesians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

If in that profound place of the being, where each one of us is «I», we open the doors to the Risen Jesus and to his Gospel, well, yes indeed, the so hoped for Kingdom has arrived...and this, even if we are far from being able to touch it and even if we still have only an embryonic image of it (1Corinthians 13:12).

Paul hopes then that we not be like hopeless people (Ephesians 2 :12), that we never give up on injustice, since that would be to give up the hope of the Kingdom, that we continue to fight «as if» we had already won and continue to run «as if» we already had reached the objective (1Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 11, 27).

 

My hope

I will try to be more concrete. The hope that I have for myself, for the Church, for society and for the whole world is that our conscience deploys itself 360 degrees.

That first in our spirit and then in our attitudes and our commitments, we learn to go beyond the forever antagonisms between matter and spirit, between man and woman, between the sacred and the profane, between religion and secularism, between christianity and paganism, between the left and the right, between conservatism and progress, between traditionalism and revolution...(Galatians 3:28).

That we Christians who hope to be Good News in the world we understand that all that the Gospel of Jesus is asking from us is to be honest, real and that, whatever the price, we be with all our heart and body on the side of the little ones, the weakest, the impoverished and all the victims of the powerful ones.

That from there we be, in our soul and conscience, the tireless searchers, defenders and promoters of justice, of human rights, of rights of the earth, of freedom of individuals and peoples and of fraternity between all human beings, and that in that dynamism of liberation we take care of not being knives or head cutters.

That we know how to save in ourselves a large space to breathe like human beings, think with wisdom, reconcile what can be reconciled, heal what can be healed, celebrate with joy what is good, great and beautiful, and never negotiate what Jesus would never negotiate.

That we do not surrender to the temptation of fighting injustice with injustice, lying with mockeries of truth, hatred by more hatred, and that at the same time, deeply in our being, the door of fraternity remains open to the whole of humanity, including enemies, without taking into account their wrongs or their mischievousness, nor their political color, their ideology or their religion.

 

Impossible?

To hope all that is probably to dream for the impossible...Yet, if our hope is not made up of what is impossible, it will never lift up the mountains, it will never bring us out of the quagmire in which we will never cease to sink. It will not help us to evolve, it will not help us to go forward.

The anchor is a magnificent symbol of hope (Hebrews 6:19), but by definition, it is an object which actually prevents the boat from advancing... I prefer that image of the Little Prince of Saint-Exupéry: «What makes the desert prettier is that it hides a well somewhere».

My hope in the desert is the well of the Kingdom; even though it is invisible to my eyes, it makes me go on and advance.

It sends me signals from the depths of my being, from the heart of Humanity and of the whole Universe.

It sends me signals from Creation itself which, within the depth of my soul, is being pushed by an immense hope of seeing itself « freed from corruption to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God » (Romans 8 :20-21).

 

Eloy Roy

Translated from the French by Jacques Bourdages

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