Anybody who has had the opportunity to work with people who are struggling or have struggled against adversity knows the tremendous power of hope in any success. Think of cancer patients – mothers, daughters, sisters fighting breast cancer, or fathers, sons or brothers in battle against prostate cancer – just for example. These people, their families and friends, chaplains, social workers and even the medical personnel, do count on hope for victory.
There are numerous stories of people who have lost everything – possessions, families, relationships, careers, homes – because of adversity. It could be something they did, like gambling or addiction, or simply a calamity befell them. In many of these stories, there has been recovery and restoration, because there was hope.
Our society today ridicules hope! Watch television for only 5 minutes and see how much negative advertising is being channeled to you. Obviously there won’t be placards inscribed “Despair” but the point of the negativity and portrayed disillusionment is to convince you of a prevailing hopelessness.
A couple of weeks ago we commented on the prophet Amos’ message of doom to the people of Israel – the northern kingdom – as a result of the greed of the rulers and the wealthy who despised the common good and sought to benefit themselves.
Calamity befell the northern kingdom when it was destroyed by the Assyrian empire in 721 BCE. The people were exiled and scattered and Samaria resettled with foreigners.
Yet, the message for this Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost from the prophet Jeremiah is one of hope. “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together, a great company, they shall return here” (Jeremiah 31:8).
Similarly, Psalm 126 expresses the joy of the hope of restoration. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream – (hope sometimes is like a dream, you just have to dream it) Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy…Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev. Those who sowed with tears will reap with joy…”
Crown all this with the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52. Though blind and a beggar he never gave up the hope of seeing again. Neither would he give up when shouted down by those around him, those who told him it was a lost cause. “Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly…”
Never give up hope, stay the course.