27th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Let me begin with something controversial.  The Yankees have no hope!  Now that might sound a little ridiculous given that they won 105 games in the regular season, clinched like in July and swept the Twins (a team that shrinks to the size of a mustard seed every time they see an interlocking NY.  Gospel allusion!)

But the Yankees have no hope.  They have something most would prefer.  They have got great baseball players.  The reason people like the Yankees’ chances is not something inherent in our souls; they believe because of Judge, Tanaka and Torres.  There is a reasonable expectation that they will succeed.  They have talent and tradition.  I, on the other hand, root for the New York Mets.  We have to have hope for we have so little else.

And that tells a tale.  Yankee fans are optimistic.  Optimism is the reasonable expectation of success.  Sometimes the reasons are clear and convincing.  Even if you like a longshot, you lay out the path of success.  If it takes a hundred strings tied together, you can plot your way to a win.  Now most people prefer optimism to hope for good reason.  Let me put it this way:  when you lead a football game by 35 with two minutes remaining, you are optimistic about winning.  If you are down 35, you only have hope.  Now which team would you rather root for?

But, there is a danger in aligning optimism with hope, for cut just one string, and optimism can no longer be sustained.  Optimism is a tender calculus; everything has to go right.  Hope strikes us a different angle.  As a Mets fan, I know there are saner ways to live.  And I have been told countless times to root for another team.  But I could never imagine doing that.  Something beyond reason, something inherent tells me this is who I am.  Hope is like that.

This is the story the prophet Habakkuk tells in the first reading.  Israel is enduring one of its darkest times.  Most have been exiled away from the Promised Land and the remnant that remains are suffering terrible deprivations.  All Habakkuk can see are violence, ruin, misery and discord.  He is crying out to God like an abandoned child. Yet, the Lord promises, “the vision still has its time,  presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;  if it delays, wait for it,  it will surely come, it will not be late.”  There is no justification for optimism at this time.  No reasonable expectation of things improving.  There is only God’s word.  This is hope.

Hope ultimately is a trust that God is good.  That the one who created in goodness will find a way to sustain it.  We who have been chosen and blessed by God are never abandoned; never forgotten.  God whose eye is on the sparrow will always have his gaze upon us.  This was instilled in us at our baptism and renewed in us when we receive the body and blood of the Lord.  We were made for hope, one of the three things that last.  Hope is the doorway to faith and love.  It is who we are.  It cannot be taken away from us by a bad break or an unforeseen circumstance for what belongs to God is forever.

Hope is not something out there to grab. It is already ours for it has already been won.  At Jesus’ darkest time, inundated by violence and ruin and misery he climbed Calvary to his crucifixion, he held onto something outrageous.  He believed that God could even overcome death.  No cheerful optimist could predict that.  Only one who deeply breathed in the faithfulness and goodness of God would risk his life when he did not have to.  And God kept the promise for that is what God does.

Perhaps these are dark times in your life.  Certainly, it is a dark time in the life of the Church and maybe for our world.  We cannot rely on optimism.  We need a light of hope to dispel the shadows.  And it will not disappoint.  It will not fail.  For our hope has a birthday- Easter Sunday; our hope has a name – Jesus Christ and our hope has a destiny –eternal life.  This is what we are made for. This is who we are.  We are Christians- we hope.


P.S. I know that the Yankees have had an injury plagued season, and it was remarkable and hopeful.  Please don’t feel the need to write back.