A Reason for Our Hope
As I reflect on the readings for this Sunday I wonder, am I really attentive to the great love that God bestows upon me, upon us, upon all people? Our gracious and generous God has blessed us with Incarnate Love, the gift of Christ, become one with us so that we may know God’s great desire to dwell with us.
God’s generosity does not stop there! As we hear Jesus proclaim in the gospel, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.”
Our Triune God, the dynamic presence of relationship, Father/Creator, Christ/Sanctifier, Spirit/Advocate is continuously gracious and generative. God continually invites us into this Divine Relationship of overflowing Love, to be one with Love. How do we give voice and witness to this deep, generative love of God in our world today?
Granted, we are faced with overwhelming challenges of terrorism, violence, poverty, hunger, human exploitation and trafficking, and mounting pollution and degradation of our land, air and water. We listen to national and world leaders calling for isolationism, nationalism, and protectionism, forgetting that every nation and all people live on this one single planet, till the same soil, and breathe the same air.
The vision and words of these leaders are being called into question, as they should be, because their message seems to have gone so far afield from the wisdom and truth of the gospel. As we continue to be underwhelmed by the message of popular leaders, we are called and challenged to be the clarion call that we hear in the first Letter of Peter, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
I often hear and read Franciscan scholar, Br. Bill Short, OFM, use this text as a foundation for our Franciscan presence, spirituality and theology needed in our world today. Br. Bill states, “People are seeking an alternative language – an alternate way of looking at the human person, the meaning of the Church, and its place in the world, who God is, what Christ represents, what salvation or creation means in our day. We have a hopeful word to speak to the concerns present in today’s Church and to the crises affecting our society.”
Are we always ready to give the explanation for our hope? Recently, I had another opportunity to speak at a premier of the Sultan and the Saint, this time in Orlando, FL. Before and after every premier I am attentive to the people gathering, welcoming and thanking them for coming and for the work they are doing to bring the message of peace to their community. At this Orlando premier as I was greeting people an older Muslim woman approached me and thanked me for being there. She asked me if I was a nun. I told her, “Yes, I am a Franciscan sister.” I felt her look deeply into me as she exclaimed, “This is wonderful! You have dedicated your life to God and to God alone. This is a great witness to all of us. Thank you. We need people to know this.” She then asked if we could give each other a hug.
Her words, this encounter, still resonates within me, especially in light of our scriptures. We all need to reveal and recognize the dynamic presence of God’s love with us and within every one of us by our very presence, by connecting person to person. We need to explain and give witness to our hope, the dynamic gift of love that we are called to invite others to share.
On April 25, 2017 Pope Francis spoke via video at a TED conference of people gathered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His message was one of encounter as he stated, “Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.” The Pope called for a ‘revolution of tenderness.’ “And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands.”
For those who have not had the opportunity, I urge you to watch and listen to Pope Francis’ TED talk on hope and tenderness. If you have watched it, I invite you to watch it again and be open to the encounter of hope and of love.
As we reflect and prepare to encounter Christ and one another in the Eucharistic feast, let us also be ready to go forth, incarnating love and be ready to give the explanation to anyone who asks for the reason for our hope. And remember to always do it with gentleness, tenderness, and reverence.