Reflection for Sunday, May 17, 2020: 6th Week of Easter.

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Burke-Sullivan, Eileen
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| In the midst of this world-wide pandemic do you have hope?|I am not writing about optimism that "things will get back to normal," or that it is "safe to go back to work" or that "everything will be alright, just as it always has been."  No, I am not speaking about that denial of reality, that refusal to see or understand the scope of suffering all around us.  That is clearly not hope.  HOPE is clear eyed.  It sees reality in some measure that God sees reality.  It doesn't appear to be in great supply on the airwaves just now – at least in the U.S.|"Always be ready to give an explanation for your hope" says Saint Peter in the second reading from the first letter attributed to his preaching and teaching.  Be prepared to testify about your hope.  Can you do that today?  I ask myself this question almost daily.  Can I give an explanation for my hope?  Do I have any hope to explain?|In the suffering of the multitude of the sick, the bewilderment of those who may not attend Church,  the fear of those put out of work, the anger of those who feel that they have lost control over their own lives, in the confusion of students from graduate school to first grade trying to understand how to learn in a new environment, and in the anxiety of university administrators who can't even imagine where the money needed to continue their good work will come from . . . in the middle of all this,  I am to be ready to give a reason for my HOPE?    |I think maybe I need a bit of conversation with St. Peter on this lovely Sunday in May.|Me:  Peter, I need a bit more information about this HOPE we are supposed to give an account of.  Would you be so kind as give me some insight into why you tell the Church we must be prepared to give a reason for our hope – and we are to do it with gentleness and reverence.  Have you paid any attention to what is happening here in this corner of God's Kingdom this whole Paschal Cycle of 2020?  Which galaxy are you visiting these days?|Peter:  Eileen, that word was written while I dwelt on Orion's Arm in the Milky Way, right where you are by the way.  And believe me that even in my own time I saw a pandemic or two, wars of human annihilation, terrible leadership in both ecclesial and civil settings, ignorance, greed, violence and oppression . . . and, if you remember your early church history, I was crucified upside down.  In ways you can't imagine I had multiple reason to despair.  Now by reminding you of this I may not be following my own invitation to gentleness and reverence, but I do want you to know that the world might even have expected me to fail in hope. |But I invite you to remember what happened for me on the seashore shortly after the Resurrection – I encountered my best friend alive after he had been crucified for telling the truth about God and God's implacable love. . . And incidentally it was the best friend that I had vehemently denied even knowing two days before, just after he had demonstrated his love for me by washing my feet.  I FAILED HIM, Eileen, in a way so complete and so total that in a less God-centered human I might have destroyed His hope.  But His hope was, and remains, every bit as total and intact as his love. |Me (not listening to him very well):  But Peter, hope has been leached out of our American culture.  We don't think we need hope – because we can do everything for ourselves.  And then something like this happens and in our cultural cynicism we are scared to even mention God or real hope without seeming like a fool.   Oh, your successor today is good at reminding us, but (waking up a bit)  I am not sure how many of us are listening.|Peter:  Eileen, don't you see that the HOPE that I am talking about in that letter is grounded in the experience of encountering Jesus face-to-face?  When you look into His eyes then you cannot lose hope. There you see His love tenderly dawning on you. I witness to you that Jesus' gaze penetrates your soul and tells you that YOU are HIS HOPE, just as HE is YOUR HOPE.  When you know how that implacable love is counting on you to give a reason for your hope, . . .  well, you become hope itself.  And that gaze remains in the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate in your heart.  |You have every reason for your HOPE. You are a tree planted close to the spring that wells up from the deepest water course of all – God's BEING.  You are alive and a companion in the life and work of Jesus – always have a reason for your HOPE that God's life, God's way, God's truth wins, both here and now and forever.  You do have to be willing to engage the challenge to be both a sign and a voice (in gentleness and reverence, remember) of the victory.  Hope is really a verb – as love is – you ACT HOPE.|Me:  Thanks, Peter.  I guess if you could claim HOPE in the darkness of the "early days" of announcing Jesus' Good News I can recount the reasons for my hope as well.  Every day I am reminded of God's mercy. . . .  I have more than a bit to learn about the "gentleness and reverence" thing, however, so I'll be back another day to discuss that with you.|Peter:  I'll be here any day to share in your hope as you share in mine, friend.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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