A Time for Hope

Advent presents us with an opportunity to stand aside and see things anew. Like Isaiah and the other prophets, we can dream. We can envision a better world. We can hope for things to come. It is a time of prophecy, a time of hope, a time for dreaming wonderful possibilities. It is a time to look beyond what is and to hope for the God of Peace to make all things new. In the end, God will wipe away every tear.
Standing in the present, we hear of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and rumors of war in Iran. We live in empire run amok. The empire proclaims “democracy and freedom” in Iraq but Alan Greenspan chides us for not knowing that this was a war about oil. It is also a war about hegemony in the Middle East and the world. We live in an empire that dominates and exploits while proclaiming it has a “divine” mission to save the world.
Advent reminds us that the values of empire are not the values of the God of Peace and face of God, Jesus. Early Christians stood over against the Roman Empire and willingly paid the price with their blood. The church was strong, domestic, and nonhierarchical. The church lived the values of nonviolence—love one another, forgive your enemies and put away your swords. Tertullian remarked that, when Jesus disarmed Peter, he disarmed every Christian. Has he disarmed us?
Pope Benedict XVI issued his second encyclical, Spe Salvi—In hope we are saved. It is available online at http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=165. He reminds us that hope is performative, that is, hope brings about that which it promises. Hope can change our lives and our world. “To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. Hope is gift! We place our hope in God, not in science, progress and empire. The Pope says that for some progress is from the sling to the atomic bomb. Some progress!
Advent is indeed a time of hope. Standing over against empire, we envision in hope a world where swords have been beaten into plowshares. We dream of a world where the lion and the lamb lie together. We dream of a better world and work to make it so. We dream of a world where the peace and justice of God is the only reality.
We live and work in community, the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King. Our hope is not individualistic. It is communal. Pope Benedict says that there is always a social dimension to Christian life:
Indeed Hebrews speaks of a ‘city’ (cf. 11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:14) and therefore of communal salvation. Consequently with this view, sin is understood by the Fathers as the destruction of the unity of the human race, as fragmentation and division. . . . This real life [the life of charity, love], toward which we try to reach out again and again, is lived in union with a ‘people’, and for each individual it can only be attained within this ‘we’. It presupposes that we escape from the prison of our ‘I’, because only in the openness of this universal subject does our gaze open out to the source of joy, to love itself, God.
We live in hope. We live in community. We live in love. But our focus is on the God of Peace. The Pope cautions us that we can never totally alleviate all human suffering. We can and must work to alleviate it but the final relief comes from God alone. As Teresa of Calcutta taught us, we just need be faithful to the mission of peace and justice.
We have completed our outdoor Advent/Christmas decorations—we are flying our multicolored peace flag on the front porch. It is a time to pray for peace. It is a time to dream of peace. It is a time to hope for peace. It is a time to work for peace with renewed vigor.
We can put feet on our dreams. We can share our hope with others. We can remind our elected representatives that domination, exploitation and hegemony do not make for peace. We can also remind them that budgets are moral documents and that spending $750,000,000 for defense is taking food, clothing and shelter from the least among us.
We can support the Immokalee Workers in their struggle for more just wages and better working and living conditions. On the same day as the Pope Issued his encyclical, President Carter courageously issued a strongly worded letter to the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. http://www.ciw-online.org/2007_BK_March/images/carter%20letter.pdf.
When we invest, we can invest in socially responsible companies. We can buy fair trade products. We can deal only with companies which treat workers fairly and humanely. We can walk gently on the earth and treasure the gift God has given us.
Most of all, we can live nonviolently. Nonviolence is not a strategy. It is a way of life. How do we drive? How do we react when things do not go our way? How do we react when people use racial and ethnic slurs? [I guess I have now gone from preaching to meddling but even prophets must heal themselves or, better yet, ask for healing.]
We are people of hope. We live and work together to alleviate suffering and to hold out the promise of hope to others.

Leave a Reply