Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
In Sunday’s second reading from 1 Peter (3:15-18), it says: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…" As I was reflecting on this, I had to ask myself, "What is the reason for my hope?" And it occurred to me that the basis for my hope is not some abstract belief in the resurrection of a person named Jesus two thousand years ago. The reason for my hope is that I have been lifted up by this Jesus time and time again. The reason for my hope is that I have seen others lifted up. I have seen alcoholics and addicts stop using self-destructive drugs after they have turned to a Higher Power. I have seen others continue to work to help those in need. I have seen still others reach across the divisions and barriers that exist between people and work together to make their part of the world a better place. The reason for my hope is not a belief in an event that occurred so long ago. The reason for my hope is that I have seen the Risen Jesus at work in mine and in other people’s lives right here and now!
There is an old saying: "Where there’s life, there’s hope." We may be tempted to think otherwise, as we have witnessed so much evil and suffering in the world. As people of faith, though, I think we can add a bit to that saying. We can also say, "Where there’s love, there’s hope." I’m not talking necessarily about romantic love, but about Christian love. In our Gospel reading (John 14:15-21), Jesus predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit on His disciples, but warns them that the world will not recognize the Spirit, and reassures them that they will know the Spirit. He then says, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Jesus declares His love for us, and continues to exhort us to love each other. If we have that kind of love for each other, there is still hope.
We might also say, "Where there are relationships, there’s hope." At the end of our Gospel reading, Jesus speaks about relationships: "In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and reveal myself to him." As long as we stay in that relationship with God, there is hope. And as long as we stay in relationship with others, there is hope. We see this in our first reading from Acts (8:5-8, 14-17)where Philip has gone to hated Samaria to proclaim the Good News, and has been accepted! And then Peter and John do not stay isolated in Jerusalem, but come to Samaria and pray with the people so that they, too, can receive the Holy Spirit. When there are people willing to reach across the divide, and build new relationships with people who may be different, there is hope! I am honored to be in relationship with people who are willing to do as Philip and Peter and John were willing to do!
Perhaps another way to say all this is to recognize that we are called to live our lives in Christ in such a way that it can be said, "Where there is us, there’s hope." We are called to bring hope. To give in to despair or selfishness or resentment or fear is not really an acceptable option for us. There may be times when we fall into those things, but we can’t stay there. As long as we are willing to follow Jesus, who "suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous," and are willing to accept that "it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil," than there is hope. May hope in Christ be evident through us!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.