Hope in Winter
November 13/14, 2010
Fr. George Smiga
Ted was having a very bad day. He was pushing seventy-five and his arthritis was kicking up. He was now having difficulty doing the simple things that he once took for granted. When he looked at the future, he was frightened. He sat on the window seat of his family room and looked out on a cold December day—barren trees, pelting rain, limited light. Ted was feeling sorry for himself. When he looked at the years to come, he saw little reason for hope. He took out a match to light his pipe and in doing so a flying ember fell on the corduroy cushion on which he was seated and burnt a hole into it.
“Darn it,” he said. His wife Helen, who was crocheting in the same room, lifted her head, “what’s wrong?” she asked. “I’m so sorry, honey,” he said, pointing to the hole in the cushion. Helen walked over and picked up the cushion. With a gentle teasing voice she said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” She left the room. When she returned, she showed him the cushion. Helen had carefully stitched a happy little flower over the charred hole. “There,” she said, “it’s fixed. Better than ever.” She went back to her crocheting.
Ted looked at the repaired cushion. His eyes filled with tears because he saw in Helen’s carefully stitched repair a symbol of their life together. He had been married to this woman for over fifty years. He knew he was blest to have her because Helen was a repairer of broken dreams, a healer of wounds. By her quiet and caring presence, she was an antidote to fear. As Ted thought of this his spirits rose because he recognized in Helen’s love a sign of God’s love. If his wife could be for him such a sign of life and hope, could he not also trust that God’s love for him was even greater. And if God was a repairer of broken dreams and a healer of wounds, then Ted had nothing to fear.
Today’s gospel is a gospel of hope. But we might not recognize it. We can be distracted by thinking that the gospel is predicting the future, what will happen at the end of time. But actually by the time Luke was writing this passage, the things that he was describing had already taken place. The temple was already destroyed. Wars and earthquakes were occurring. False teachers were leading people astray. Persecutions had begun. So far from predicting future events, Luke was describing the crises and turmoil of his own time.
It is in those contemporary challenges that Luke’s call to hope becomes clear. What Luke is telling his audience and us is that it is in the midst of our suffering and turmoil that we should cling to hope. In the midst of our present troubles Christ assures us not a hair of our head will be harmed and by perseverance we will secure our lives. This gospel tells us to persevere, to hold on, not to give up hope. Of course the basis of our hope is not our own cleverness or our confidence that we can resolve all of these crises. Our hope rests in our belief that God is a repairer of broken dreams, a healer of wounds, a God who will protect us and save us.
Therefore today’s gospel invites us to identify in our lives what is broken, who is wounded, and what circumstances lead us close to despair. Once we have identified these difficulties, the gospel advises us to hold on, not to give up hope. God is active and God has a plan that we cannot yet completely see. Therefore we are called to trust in God, believing that people can change, opportunities can emerge, obstacles can be removed, and that God is prepared to use all of these changes to save us. If we can see care and love in a spouse, in a co-worker, or in a close friend, then those gifts challenge us to see an even greater love and care in our God. Circumstances can surround us and frighten us but God is with us. Therefore do not give up hope, hang on. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.