Sunday, September 22, 2019

Our Hope

It is precisely to bolster our hope that God reveals this truth to us, that “…he wills everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth…” How often the Biblical writers cry out to God to save them, especially the psalmists: “Rescue me, O God…deliver us…free us…forgive us our sins…O God our Savior…O God of our salvation…” Their hope was that God would take them out of a dangerous situation and the risk of perishing. They turned to God for protection, for healing, for peace – and we do the same, especially when we are in distress.

But how exactly does God save us? He reveals the truth to us, the truth about ourselves. Without this truth, we may think we have no need for salvation. We may have all the money in the world, but if we do not know and accept the truth, it will do us no good. The way that God reveals the truth to us is by speaking through prophets, or religious superiors, or friends, or even enemies who tell us the truth about ourselves (even if we’d rather not hear it). God sent Amos to tell the Israelites the truth: their religious observance was a sham; they lived luxuriant lives at the expense of the poor, so much so that Amos called the women of Samaria, “cows of Bashan”, who sold the poor for a pair of sandals and then called out to their husbands: “Bring us a drink!” Amos concludes with this fiery statement, “The Lord God has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done.” Amos used the knife of truth to lay bare their need for salvation and to show them where we should place their hope.

There must be a message of hope contained in here, since God wills everyone to be saved. What or who is this “pride of Jacob” that God is swearing by? Remember these words from Hebrews, “…since he had no one greater by whom to swear, ‘he swore by himself…’” When God swears by the pride of Jacob, he swears by himself, which we can refer to his only begotten son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the real Pride of Jacob. And since his mother Mary is never far from her son, we can include her as a cause of our hope, she who is the Glory of Jerusalem. It is certain that God will never forget a thing that these two have done. The way we cooperate in our salvation is to place our faith in what these two have done and remain united with them, acting in concert with them. No matter how far we stray, no matter how low we fall, God will never forget what his Pride and his Glory have done, nor will he forget our efforts to remain united with them.

There is a non-biblical story that illustrates this. It is Dante’s description of his climb up the mountain of purgatory with Virgil as his guide (Canto V). Dante encounters the spirit of Buonconte, an adversary in warfare. Buonconte relates how he was fleeing from a battle against Dante’s people, bleeding from a wound to his throat, when he lost his sight and fell to the ground. Without time to seek absolution for his sins, he uttered the name of Mary. And lo, the angel of God swooped down and grabbed Buonconte from the devil’s grasp, and the devil cried out, “O thou from heaven, why dost thou rob me? Thou bearest away for thyself the (soul) of him for one little tear…” (and the name of Mary).

This is a reason for hope: God wills everyone to be saved. If we have delayed our repentance, or our religious observance has been a sham, or we have treated some person with contempt, let us call on the name of Jesus! Call on Mary! If the voice of Amos thunders in our conscience, reminding us of our infidelities: call on the Pride of Jacob! Call on the Glory of Jerusalem! God our Father never forgets a thing they have done. All he wants is for us to acknowledge the great good he has given to us through his Son and through his Son’s mother, and to live in communion with them. This is our hope of salvation, and it is in the Eucharist that we give expression to that hope and find its fulfillment. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Vincent's Sunday Homily.