The Fragility of Hope

Is it just me, or do the news headlines of the last few weeks seem to be full of sadness? We read of natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and wildfires, taking their toll of human life; disease spreading fear and death into countries already ravaged by war and civil unrest; the unremitting violence of terrorists and thugs; and then the high-profile deaths of some who have taken their own lives or who have been brutally battered in their homes or on our supposedly ‘safe’ streets. We read of broken promises, agreements reneged upon and political spats that may have consequences for years to come. It all seems very dark, and then we add to it the stories few others may know about: the family torn apart by alcoholism, the would-be nun living in a homeless shelter because her bishop has closed the monastery in which she used to live, the famous person close to despair. It is difficult, in such circumstance, to keep our hope up, especially if we think of hope as something that innoculates us against doubt or fear. Depression, anxiety, even a fleeting feeling of being down in the dumps, are realities we have to face.

This morning I found my own personal encouragement in something that may strike others as strange. In today’s gospel (Mark 3. 20-35) we read that those hostile to Jesus said, ‘Beelzebul is in him!’ Think about that for a moment. It is an utter travesty of the truth, but Jesus had to live with it. The argument he uses to refute the scribes’ allegation impresses us, because we know the truth of the matter, but I wouldn’t mind betting that at the time, both to him and his hearers, it looked a little weak. There was no act of power to substantiate what he said. We do not often think of Jesus as needing hope.* Trust in the Father, yes, but hope, no. I think, however, that this is an instance of Jesus’ living by hope, uncertain of the outcome, but continuing nonetheless. It is a variant of what I have called elsewhere ‘just plodding on’. In our weakest moments, when everything seems black, that is all we can do. We cannot summon up a feeling of faith we do not have; we just have to go on.

Please pray today for those who feel they cannot go on; and give thanks for those whose humanity enables them to reach out to others in their need and give them comfot.

* I speak of Jesus in his humanity, not as he was and is as the Second Person of the Trinity.