“Hope” was a singularly overused word in a political campaign a number of years ago. Hope expresses a wish or the confident expectation of something good that is about to happen.
It is often tied in with other concepts — faith, hope and love, or faith, hope and charity. It is an important part of the human psyche, too. When all hope is lost, what else is there?
Events over the last six years have shown that when we invest our hope in people and things we are certain to be disappointed — in small ways, in monumental debacles and everything in between. But all hope is seldom lost, but so much hope is certainly misplaced.
And there is no greater evidence of misplaced hope than Christmas.
Pope Francis recently released an Apostolic Exhortation titled Evangelii Gaudium — The Joy of the Gospel. The following is the second paragraph of that document.
“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.”
If you look at where our hope and focus are today, you might discover that everyone is trying to find the next bargain on everything electronic, or a new car, perhaps another piece of jewelry, and the list could go on to fill up every space in this newspaper.
Have you noticed that virtually every major religious feast or celebration and every patriotic holiday in the United States has been hijacked by the business community at large, enticing you to forget the main reason for the celebration, but to spend your money on something you probably don’t need, but certainly hope to obtain right now or sometime soon?
Our country is one of the most generous when it comes to charity, but why does the Salvation Army report a precipitous drop in donations at their Red Kettles at the time of year when they normally receive the most money?
The pope also directed comments at total reliance on trickle-down economics, the idolatry of money, and a financial system that rules rather than serves.
Let’s face it, no one economic system or theory works perfectly all the time in all situations. The government idolizes money as thoroughly as many people do. The government acts as though if it spends or gives away enough money it will create the perfect society. And too many taxpayers use the government largesse to excuse themselves from any real charitable giving.
Additionally, the government is in a tacit partnership with many financial enterprises and certainly sees that partnership as a logical way to rule all of us. Who can rationally believe that our government doesn’t see us more as galley slaves as played by Charlton Heston in “Ben Hur” than as free citizens whom they should be serving? Row well and live anyone?
So much of what we believe and what we do is diametrically opposed to what evolved from the birth of one male child to a Jewish couple — a teenage girl and her older carpenter husband in modern-day Israel over two millennia ago. The child Jesus of Nazareth challenged the status quo as no one else, instituting a covenant of faith, hope and love among God and all humanity.
The fact that Judeo-Christian religions and morality have lasted for more than five millennia should serve as strong evidence that far, far more than a slender thread of truth exists within their belief structures.
However, so many people find the concept of God passé at best and ludicrous at the worst. Others believe that all religions are engaged in some sort of gigantic fraud against their believers. Still others think that one religion is as good as another and the ideas of a heaven and a hell are just fantasies used to scare or control people.
And if you get deep into the heart of the secular, progressives, they view religion in much the same light as the socialists who labeled it as the “opiate of the people.” This leaves the state and the laws of the state as supreme. How else did we get around to the concept of the “holidays” instead of pretending religions do not exist or are meaningless?
I, for one, find it far easier to believe in the union of God and man in the child Jesus who was born to establish a new covenant between God and men and to save us all from ourselves and our sinful nature than to place my hope for the future in any government of human origin.
During this Christmastime, I hope you find a level of faith, hope and love that will brighten your lives and the lives of others now and through 2014. The peace that could result would be a real change.
As Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one!”
Well, that’s the way I see it.