Here comes 2021! And it can’t get here fast enough! We are thinking it will be better as we look back on the wreckage of this year. I get overwhelmed thinking of and knowing people who have been suffering immeasurable heartache this year. Thinking of people tearing at the veil between life and the shadow of death as they lie in the limp folds of the ICU, alone, and tethered to a horizon of plastic blue coils pumping air, and the low whirl of the cardiac machine measuring one weak heart beat after another. And then there is the loneliness of those who are isolated, adrift in the their memories of happy days of laughter and music when they held those close to them in the lock of love.
But, there is hope! Yes, hope. Vaccines are being administered now. The kindness of scores of people has surmounted the ugliness of loss and depression. We are seeking resolutions to the deep issues of racism, food insecurity, homelessness, and much more. We are starting to live in hope.
At least that is what I kept hearing during the Christmas season. Famed cellist, Yo-Yo Ma and accompanist, Kathryn Stott, just released an album specifically for this time. It is called, Songs of Comfort and Hope. Former Vice President, Al Gore, wrote an editorial titled, “Where I Find Hope” and listed the advances being made globally for environmental safety and those that will surely come with a new administration. He opined that we will surely “…recover the respect of other nations and restore their confidence in America…”
Everything I heard or saw through our cultural lens this season promoted hope for the world. And that is why Jesus came. He offered hope to the anawim, the poor, the undocumented, the disenfranchised of that time – and always. But the message is even deeper than that reality. It is that you and I who are believers in Christ’s teachings must offer hope to others. Yes, we have to be vessels of hope. Pope Francis wrote recently, “To speak of hope to those who are desperate, it is essential to share their desperation. To dry the tears of those who are suffering, it is necessary to join our tears with theirs.”
In his recent speech to the nation, President-elect Biden urged that we have hope that we can make things better for the coming year. He quoted a Jesuit priest I had read about many years ago. Father Alfred Delp was imprisoned by the Nazis for suspicion that he was part of the group intending to assassinate Hitler, which was untrue. But Fr. Delp was editor of a Jesuit magazine that challenged the Reich’s regime. He also helped many Jews escape the death camps. For these activities, Fr. Delp was captured and imprisoned. He understood the evil closing in on him and wrote essays which were smuggled out of the prison and later published. Before he was taken to be hanged on February 2, 1945, and fully aware of his fate, he scrawled the words our President-elect read to all of us last week in his address: “Shaken to our depths, we are ready to hope.”
There are different faces of hope in life. We can hope for a cure for a sickness, or to find a job, or to succeed in a project. When we pray for a favorable outcome of anything, we are hopeful because that kind of hope sees possibilities. But when moving toward irrevocable death be it illness or martyrdom, hope has a different spiritual luster, it does not see promising possibilities. It says, instead, I am hopeful that something good will come of this even if I cannot see it now. It says I am hopeful that through this unimaginable pain and doubt, God will take care of me and those I love. It is probably what Fr. Delp thought as he ascended the hangman’s platform.
For this new year, can we resolve to live hope and demonstrate to others who are in pain that we hope for them and with them?
Can we offer possibilities to those who are overcome with the feeling that their dilemma is hopeless?