Crying, waiting, hoping.
by Unvirtuous Abbey
Gospel Reading: Romans 5: 1-11
For Sunday, Mar. 27, 2011: Year A – Lent 3
A friend of mine was recently “vague booking.” I called him and heard his relationship (or lack of relationship) woes. As we spoke, I asked him, “What gives you hope?”
His answer: “I’ll be in Mexico in two weeks.”
Now, that may not be what gives me, or you, hope, but for him, it was the first thing that came to his mind.
A few years ago, I worked with a group of people and asked them to submit pictures of what gave them hope. The project was this: “In our digital world, we are challenging you to record hopeful images in life. Where do you see hope in your daily life?”
I received over 100 images from people. Some were edgy, such as a sink in a soup kitchen. Others were of flowers growing through concrete. Some depicted wildlife and outdoor scenes. A young person submitted a group picture with her friends; their togetherness gave her hope. The project generated a lot of emotion.
Living for the Preposterous
Of hope, Cheryl Lawrie of the Uniting Church in Australia says this: “Hope, an encounter that captivates our imagination so we can’t help but become more than who we thought we were, and find ourselves living for something that is all at once preposterous and impossible.”
The recipe for hope, says Paul, is this: suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us.
But, what happens when suffering + endurance + character don’t produce hope? What happens when they produce despair?
Maybe Paul missed something. I can suffer and still have hope. But despair? The truth is, we can’t truly understand what “life” is, what Easter is, until we know darkness. And not just “my flight got cancelled” kind of darkness. But the part where there is no life. Where death creeps in. Yet, sitting on the edge of darkness is hope. Our Abbey tweeted a prayer (quoting Bruce Cockburn) specifically about this: “For those who kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight, we pray to the Lord.”
Hurry Up and Wait
Nietzsche says that “In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments” but I disagree.
The only way around despair is through it. It’s the time spent in the deep, dark, cold cave that truly prepares us for the gasp of life that fills our lungs, energizes the soul, and gives us the hope that does not disappoint. But there has to be a period of despair, of suffering, and intentional “spiritual waiting” before something new emerges.
The Hardest Question
Paul says that we are justified by grace through faith and that hope follows on the heels of this. But is hope a gift too? Or something else. What happens when what we are hoping for doesn’t come to fruition?
Unvirtuous Abbey appeared on the Twitter scene on August 6th, 2010. They are a slightly sarcastic, yet hopeful, group of monks. They try to elevate the conversation with humorous tweets about the Bible, God, and Jesus. They also pray about geeks, Guns and Roses, and Charlie Sheen. They have been interviewed by The Practical Catholic and the Virtual Abbey. They consider themselves lucky to be among the guest bloggers of “The Hardest Question.”