16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2017

In the old comic strip for children – Goofus and Gallant – Gallant was the character to did everything right, always polite and kind.  Goofus on the other hand was a disaster of manners and consequences.  Each week the strip compared the failed exploits of Goofus and the triumph of Gallant.  To understand today’s Gospel, let us understand two more characters.  Dour and Hope.

Dour bases his life on cynicism. He is content to expect the worse so that he may never be disappointed.  He lives a quiet and small life, keeping himself closed off.  He applauds himself when things go badly and congratulates himself for knowing it first.  Dour does not love, less he be heartbroken; does not befriend less he be betrayed; does not hope, less he be crushed.  His greatest prize is smugness.

Hope live differently for Hope is a Christian.  He takes risks for the sake of love; he extends himself for his brothers and sisters; he believes the world is alive and dynamic, moving toward ever greater blessing.  Hope is sometimes made to look the fool by Dour, but Hope is persistent.  You see hope believes in the kingdom of God and its ability to surprise.  Hope knows that the mustard seed, though only the smallest of seeds can produce the greatest of bushes while Dour would never dare plant a seed so small confident he knows it would produce no yield.  Hope knows that just a little yeast can leaven the whole dough and indeed the world, while Dour eats flat bread.

You see Hope believes in grace, which is the action of Jesus Christ in the world. He believes that everything has been transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that has created space for the Holy Spirit to change our lives.  Grace is the space that Christ operates in and Hope trusts himself to it.  Hope risks love, friendship and expectations to be in the rhythm of a dynamic world.  Dour resists being heartbroken as his heart atrophies.  He refuses attachment, but can only claim loneliness as his friend. He dies to brighter things, but his dreams run dry.

How can you not choose hope when you see its effects all around you?  I see it in the Journey kids who take the tremendous social risk of asking those who are unchurched to join them on a four day retreat.  They are willing to face rejection and ridicule because they know what the living Christ can do for them.  I see it in best friends who run a Catholic Worker house and lie in voluntary poverty, to live poorly among the poor and changing the lives of over 50 families at a time in Albany.  Mostly I see it though in the little things.  How often you have shared time and talent for the needs of others?  How often you think and pray for those who need it even if they are unaware of that need?  How often are you Christ in ways life-changing and moment changing?  Hope believes that every kindness makes a difference, every ounce of strength applied to a mountain of oppression pushes it closer to justice, and every decision to love connects us to the Holy Spirit of another.

The religion needed in this age is not static – one content with containment, careful in welcoming and distancing itself from the plight of others.  We need a religion of dynamism – always open, anxious to accept the other, entangled in the lives of those who need our help.  One that looks just like the Lord.  A religion of “yes”.  A religion alive with miracles and expectations.  A religion of hope.  Let that be our church.  Let that be Jesus Christ.