I’m convinced that the biggest crisis of our times is a crisis of hope. It has been said that we live in an era of fraud. There are many kinds of fraud: Many of us are aware of financial fraud, like the mortgage crisis of 2008 in which the selfishness and ambition of a certain few wounded many families. But fraud is also present in politics, education, and even sports. How often our dreams seem to be shattered these days when we find out that our favorite athlete has been using artificial (and often illegal) means to stimulate their bodies and achieve better results. We can even see these disappointments closer to home, present in religious institutions, people who may call themselves proclaimers of the Gospel, and yet live lavish and incongruous lives, or they may make decisions that blow up into scandals which are clumsily mishandled by the leadership. No matter what we place our hope in this world, Politics, Education, Financial systems, Sports, or religious men, we end up getting disappointed. And it’s not surprising, because if we put our hope in human institutions, created by imperfect human beings, then we will always be left disillusioned. The biggest crisis of our time is a crisis of hope. Pope Francis says it in the following words:
People no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities….Humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life (Laudato Si 113).
This is the state in which we can find ourselves: Weighed down with lethargy and greyness, with a cold boredom slowly seeping into our lives and under our skin. I remember when Pope John Paul II visited Mexico. It was his fifth or sixth trip, and a group of friends and I organized ourselves to go. It was January so we were expecting some cold weather. On the evening before his arrival we made our way to the race track, where he would be celebrating Mass next morning. At 8pm everybody waiting at the racetrack was filled with excitement. They were singing, chanting, and dancing, and preparing their hot chocolate and sandwiches for the night ahead. By 10pm people were settling down; they had found their spots, put their sleeping bags down, and were walking around, getting to know the people around them, and perhaps refilling coffee. Then at 1am the cold front hit us. Everything started dying down, people t get some sleep, and there was no music to be heard anymore. It was so cold that when I decided to try and get some sleep myself at 2am I couldn’t do so because of the icicles in my sleeping bag! Then the mist came in and a deep gloom settled over all of us. There was complete silence; no longer was there the joy of thousands of souls expecting something great, now there was only the lethargy of just making it through the night looking, and overcoming the cold for one more hour. At 6am the first rays of sunlight came through, and I watched people waking up in their sleeping bags, uncovering their heads slowly, and trying to touch those sun rays, as if to grasp a little bit of warmth. Hope was kindled in our hearts because we knew that the night was finally ending. At 7am the sound of the helicopter finally finished breaking the weariness, and there were cheers and music and dancing all over again. But I never forgot that midnight cold, and the gloomy darkness which enveloped us, for it those times in our life that makes us forget the true hope for whom we live.
In today’s Gospel John the Baptist has some doubts about who Jesus is. This is the same man who pointed out Jesus Christ and cried, “Behold the lamb of God!” (Jn 1:29) This is the messiah! John was saying. This is the one we were expecting, the one who is to come! And yet today what do we hear? Doubt, John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask: Lord, our teacher John the Baptist sent us to ask you: Are you the one who is to come? Are you the Messiah? Are you the one we hoped for? Even though John the Baptist had seen Christ and recognized him, there was still some doubt over his heart, and a lack of hope that he had to address, just like you and I. He had to bring to Christ those doubts, and it was through those doubts that Christ perfected his hope. How does Christ do this? He points to the things that are happening, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (Lk 7:22). As if to say, let no longer my word be the proof but the actions that are surrounding me. And I’m convinced that the same actions are taking place in our time, for those that are willing to see them. The blind are seeing; many of us are starting to see beyond the false promises of our modern world, beyond those human institutions in which we place our hopes, beyond exclusive science, and beyond our own expectations and plans. The deaf are hearing the word of God; some of us are learning to listen to what lies beyond the consumerism of this season of Christmas, beyond the belief that the only way we can love is through gifts. The lame are walking; amongst us are people who are experiencing Christ in a new way, and taking their first steps towards the Messiah. The lepers are being cleansed. The dead are rising. All of this is happening.
What is the hope of our lives? Who is the hope of our lives? Our Lord Jesus Christ! We place our hope in God made man, on God who is coming into the world. That is what this season is all about: Reminding ourselves of where our true hope lies, not in ourselves, not in our accomplishments, and not in human institutions but in Jesus Christ himself. Today we vested in , the color of the third candle of the wreath, to signify that our joy is here, that our Lord Christ is coming into the world. But it’s also an invitation for us to address the doubts that we may have, like John the Baptist, and to take a step towards overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way of us receiving the full hope of Christ. A modern day theologian says the following words,
The greatest joy in a man’s life is to feel Christ alive and beating in his heart, taking flesh in his thoughts. All else is rubbish or fleeting illusion (L. Giussani).
That is the greatest joy of our lives: For Christ to take flesh in our thoughts, our words, our actions, our family life, our personal life, and even our psychological life. For Christ to be made present in our whole being. Our hope is in him who comes after the long cold dark night. He is the Sun of Justice that brings warmth once again into our lives. He is the Light of the World, who brings understanding, direction and purpose to our confused minds. He guides us constantly, and he reveals himself to those willing to see and listen.
Let us ask Mary, the one who brings us this hope, Christ, the first ray of sunlight and our greatest hope, to show us how to overcome all obstacles, so that we may continue to see and receive the hope that is our Lord Jesus Christ. May it be.
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