7B. that where there is despair, I may bring hope

“Hope does not disappoint us,” says (disliked, disowned, disregarded, discenfranchised) Paul. The similarly disinherited Peter says to be prepared to give a (gentle and respectful) defense of your hope –  because your hope is going to catch some attention. This is not an abstract, wishful hope. 

Dorothy Day, patron of and advocate for all the dis-inclined, spoke of “the duty of hope:” hope as a practice, as a choice. In the face of  the greatest needs, and when faced with the greatest abusers of power, Day called on hope as a means of getting to the good work ahead. 

Day writes,

To train oneself for the race, to train oneself for joyful acceptance, a loving acceptance. To love one’s enemies. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do

… What hope! What optimism! What foolishness. It is the folly of the cross. Can a Hitler be converted and live? God, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. Let me see Christ in him. Take away my heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh. Teach me to love.

This indiscriminate hope in God’s presence in and ability to transform every person, every moment, is not simply the sum of my aptitudes. It is formed in and by willingness, over time, in dependence on the Spirit. Elsewhere, Day says,

The grace of hope, this consciousness that there is in every person that which is of God, comes and goes, in a rhythm like that of the sea. The Spirit blows where it listeth, and we travel through deserts, and much darkness, and doubt. 

…. God speaks, He answers the cries in the darkness, just like He always did. He is incarnate in the poor, in the bread we break together. We know him, and each other, in the breaking of bread. 

Fear may be a good motivator to get started, but it’s just a shovel in the frenzied dig to despair. 

Hope drives action that is not completed for our own sake, or to the extent of our own tools. 

I can dig a hole all by myself, but there’s a cooperative, hope-making mystery to how the seed, the sower, the grain, the miller, the leaven and the oven make bread. We share a loaf that began with the hope of a stranger. 

We share a hope that makes a family of strangers. May we share a life that makes a stranger wonder about this family’s hope for them. 

Mark 8:11-21

I’m writing short reflections on the Franciscan peace prayer through Lent. The series begins with 1A, right over here.


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