First Sunday of Advent - Fr. Pete Iorio
November 28, 2021 - 11:00 AM
Frenchman Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a scientist, but he was also a Christian, a Catholic priest, and a man whose ultimate vision of things was formed by the gospels. Central to his whole system of thought was his core belief that ultimately all of history, cosmic and human, would come together, in Christ, into one community of life and love as promised by Jesus. This vision was the wide framework within which he ultimately set his scientific theories. But he was surrounded by colleagues, both Christian and secular, who had a far-less hopeful view of things. One day he was challenged: “You have an enchanted view of history, believing that everything will one day culminate in a wonderful `kingdom’ of peace and love, but suppose we blow up the world in a nuclear war, what happens to your schema of things then?”
His response to that question is a classic definition of hope: “If we blow up the world it would be a great tragedy because it would set things back millions of years. But history will still one day culminate in a kingdom of peace and love, not because my theory says so, but because God promised it and in the resurrection has shown the power to bring this about, despite the things we do.” That’s hope, to be able to say: “It might take a million years or so longer, but it will happen because God promised it.”
Hope is a vision of life that guides itself by God’s promise. It does not matter whether the situation looks optimistic or pessimistic at any given time.
Hope is not simple optimism, an idealism that will not let itself be defeated by what’s negative; nor is it wishful thinking.
In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord gives his people hope by stating that he will fulfill the promise. Advent is the season when we are invited to rekindle our hope in God’s promises.
Hope is not based on whether the news is good or bad on a given day. As we know, the daily news is better on some days and worse on others. If we hope or despair on the basis of whether things seem to be improving or disintegrating in terms of world events, our spirits will go up and down like a roller coaster. Hope looks at the facts, looks at God’s promise, and then, without denying the facts or turning away from the reality of the news, lives out a vision of life based upon God’s promise, trusting that a benevolent, all-powerful God is still in charge of this world and that is more important than whether or not the news looks good or bad on a given day.
God has promised that history (our private histories, our communal history, and cosmic history) will one day come together in an ecstatic oneness, a heaven, a paradise, a community of life around Christ and in God within which there will be no tears and no death.
And what power will bring this about? The power that God showed in the resurrection of Jesus, the power to bring a dead body back to life, to redeem what’s been lost, to write straight with crooked lines, and to bring people together, despite and beyond hatred, sin, selfishness, mistakes, tragedy, resistance, violence, death, and all that will ever be shown on the news.
Jesus says to be vigilant at all times To live in hope determines how we live today and also shapes our future. To hope is to look back on our lives and see no need to count the losses, underline the hurts, play the victim, or stew in bitterness because all our wounds and losses can be redeemed as part of a greater promise. The same holds true for our future. All our plans and projects must reflect the wider plan of God and we, like Father Teilhard de Chardin, should be prepared to live in great patience as we wait in joyful hope.
The greatest Advent figure is Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She embodies hope: Not only did she believe the promise, she became pregnant with it, gestated it, gave it her own flesh, went through the pains of childbirth to give it reality, and then nursed a fragile new life into a powerful adulthood that saved the world. This is not just something to admire and someone to venerate, but Mary is someone for us to imitate with our own lives.