Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hope is certainty about one's future

Hope is certainty about the future that arises from the Presence we encounter by means of a witness. Hence, it is not politics, school plans, career progression, or financial independence that give us certainty about the future. Despite our best efforts, plans may not come to fruition due to any number of factors, most of which are beyond our control. Think of Hurricane Katrina, the Christmas tsunami in the Pacific several years ago, the recent earthquake in Italy, or the global financial meltdown that reduced fortunes to pittances. Having certainty about my future requires that I trust and to trust means to entrust myself to Another. This cannot be done lightly and it is not a snap decision made in the blinking of an eye. Rather, it happens through experience.

I can only come to completely entrust myself to Christ through my experiences, the circumstances of my life, through which I verify that He is trustworthy, that He will not disappoint me. Christ does not satisfy me by giving me everything I want; asking for and receiving everything I want is not entrusting myself to Him, it is being a manipulative, spoiled child. If I have Christ, I have everything! Indeed, "this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (1 John 5:1-4). Do we believe this, or does it remain inspiring religious rhetoric? Completely entrusting myself to Christ means being obedient, but not as a way of placating Him in order to get what I want, this is a truly pagan notion. Obedience is the fulfillment of my freedom, it is the only way of being free. Of course, obedience is not conformity with rules imposed on me, that is oppression that arises from fear and "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

Fr. Carrón reminded us in January of what Msgr Giussani taught us: when we are faced with life's challenges what we hold most dear surfaces. In other words, it is when we are faced with life's challenges that what we put our hope in is made known. Was your hope in the promotion at work, getting an A in that class, Pres. Obama fixing many problems in our society, McCain becoming the next president, in the friendship of one who turns out to not be trustworthy? If our hope is in anything or anyone other than Christ, sooner or later we will not only be disappointed, but defeated, not just discouraged, but despairing, that is, without hope. It is by entrusting ourselves to Him that we learn what it is to be trustworthy and faithful.

It is important that we avoid falling into the trap that sees pinning our certainty about the future on Christ alone as a form of fatalism, a call to retreat and quietism. On the contrary, it is a call to witness, a call to be engage reality according to the totality of its factors, a call to gaze on another with the gaze we have received. In A New Commencement we are reminded that

"For us faith is not an ethical code nor an ideology but an experience: an encounter with Christ present here and now in the Christian community. Christian faith gives us a freedom and a passion for living that express themselves above all in the form of questions as we face reality, and an inexhaustible openness to everything human."
We had a beautiful example last week of what I am trying to explain: Carrie Prejean did not place her hope in being crowned Miss U.S.A. Instead, she gave witness to the truth about marriage. In an interview after the pageant with NBC's Matt Lauer, she continued to be an impressive young woman, saying that "it's unfortunate that a lot of pageant girls, you know, they have the pressure. Like Claudia Jordan said—she was one of the judges, she was great. She said that, you know, I should have been more in the middle, I shouldn't have given a specific answer. But that goes against what I stand for. And when I'm asked a specific question, I'm going to give a specific answer. I'm not going to stand in the middle. I'm going to take one side or the other." To which Lauer responded, "Carrie, you came so close." She responded to that, ending the interview by saying, "And I am—I am so proud of myself and I have so many people that are so proud of me. And it wasn't what God wanted for my life that night." That's impressive and a far cry from Rick Warren's less than straight-forward answers on Larry King, which I can only describe as Hinckleyesque. I am beginning to suspect that Larry may have hypnotic powers.

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad to read your thoughts on trust. I have been verifying obedience myself in recent weeks, that is, by obeying circumstances (including the plans of others), as trust in God's plans, instead of flailing with my usual stubborn stances. It's yielded marked peace within and more unity in my relationships.

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  2. What it yields is the verification of the Presence, as you and I both know.

    There remains for me the issue addressed in my last post that continues to challenge me precisely as to in what/whom I place my hope and trust. What satisfies me? I know the answer, but I am working it out in my experience right now everyday.

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