As the earth brings forth its plants and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
Hard to imagine a more hopeful book than the prophecies of Isaiah. The most beautiful passages accompany us during Advent.
The Lord God can and will give us a good future, by His power, according to His wisdom. The future will be brighter, because the Almighty holds it in His hands. His promises, wonderful as they may be, will certainly be fulfilled. Justice will spring up. The earth herself will sing to God a canticle of praise. Creation will reflect and magnify the splendor of the majestic Creator.
When the grace of Christ fills our souls, three theological virtues operate, namely: _____, ______, and ________.
Third Sunday of Advent, we seem to be talking about things, as yet unseen, that will give us joy in the future. In other words, because we believe that God will make good on His promises, we live in ________.
For the past two years, we have from time to time recalled the fiftieth anniversary of the great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in the 20th century, namely… When we look back at the days of Vatican II, we might get filled with nostalgia, nostalgia for the optimism of those times. Back then, in the 1960’s, the future appeared to open up like a fabulous suitcase, full of style and new possibilities. Hope practically grew on trees then. A better future seemed to lunge into the room like an eager hippopotamus.
Fifty years later, the atmosphere of the world has certainly changed. The hopefulness of the Sixties has all but vanished. The age of international peace that everyone dreamed of has been disturbed by terrorism and widespread political instability. The economy can’t snap out of the doldrums. I think it’s fair to say that we live in cynical, dispirited times.
Will our children have a better life than we do? Most Americans think not. It’s one of Tim Allen’s jokes: looking forward to having just enough to live on, in a small apartment—that’s the ‘Canadian dream.’ The measure of our short-term hope these days. Our grandparents nurtured the ‘American dream.’ But not us.
What about a year of favor? What about a jubilee? When captives held unjustly get liberated, and broken hearts heal, and debts racked-up in desperation get wiped away? What about a day of vindication—a day when everyone who has suffered wrongly gets compensated and made whole? Can we hope for better times? Better jobs, better government, and better Redskins’ seasons?
Not to imply any nastiness toward anyone in particular, but: I think people have cast ballots for candidates who talk about better things. Saying that an era of political compromise will come doesn’t make it come. Saying that America has a great future doesn’t make America have a great future. Saying that races and cultures and people need to get along better doesn’t make them actually get along better.
What, then, do we hope for? Well, if I might put it like Gandalf put it to Frodo, when the little hobbit started to realize how hard it would be to get the ring to Mordor:
We are going to hope, by God’s grace, that we ourselves, when everything is said and done, will stand before God without shame, because we did our little part to try to build a better world. It’s not for us to choose the times we live in. It’s for us to choose good over evil, no matter what happens.
After all, even though all long-term economic indicators for the middle-class suggest that we are living through one of the worst decades ever, and the movies they come out with these days seem more and more boring—even though these are pretty cruddy times, as times go—they don’t totally suck. Because we have each other. And we have opportunities every day to act with kindness and honesty and courage. Even though the world has grown cynical and dark, we can greet each single day for what it really is: an opportunity from Almighty God for us to practice the teachings of Christ.
Hoping for satisfaction and pleasure from what this world has to offer has always been a vain business, whether the times be good or bad. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s hero Jay Gatsby lived the high life, in a decade when money seemed to grow on trees. He had it all. But he did not have happiness. He longed in his heart for the kind of communion that this world cannot give.
So if the American Dream seems practically out of reach, we hope for a better future anyway. Because the work of God, and the fulfillment of the kingdom of God, comes down to little daily acts of honesty and kindness.
Little acts of Christian heroism plant hidden seeds. Here a seed of patience. Here a seed of chastity. Here a seed of self-sacrifice.
On a day that only God knows, all these seeds will bear fruit, glorious fruit. It won’t matter then what the Dow Jones industrial average is that day, or the gross domestic product, or the national debt, or even the air temperature. It won’t matter. Because God will be all in all.
answers: Faith HOPE Love