In the first Psalm, we are told that:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
But still, I wonder. Today, how many of us consider ourselves to be blessed, let alone trees planted by streams of water?
In recent days, one can surely say that Prince William and Duchess Kate have been blessed with a new son who one day may become the future king of England. Likewise, in observing World Youth Day proceedings in Rio de Janiero, one cannot help but believe that in Pope Francis, the Holy Spirit has blessed us with a truly wise and holy pontiff. In a world where so many things seem to have shifted upside-down, the Holy Father encourages us to recognize the ways in which we have been blessed; and furthermore, to be a people of hope. And people of hope look forward, not backward.
Despite his encouragement, many scoff at the pontiff’s suggestion that there is reason for hope. They say, look at the numbers—and reality. Is he unaware that each day in the United States, 45 Americans will be murdered? Is he unaware that since 1973, more than 56 million unborn children have suffered death through constitutionally-granted rights? Is he unaware that 40.8% of all births are to unwed mothers? Is he unaware that 47.8 million are dependent upon food stamps for their daily sustenance? For these and many other reasons, the scoffers point out that hope is at best dormant, if not entirely extinguished.
While keenly aware of these dire circumstances, Pope Francis also knows that the Church has “been there” before. Following the proceedings of the Cross, many of Jesus’ followers were left with feelings of despair and hopelessness. Today, the living out of our own lives may also bring us to such a place. And so, what makes the difference? Hope. For when hope is inserted into the equation, everything is different. We are changed. To recall the psalmist, we delight in the law of the Lord. We become like trees planted by streams of water. Waiting.
In his Letter to the Romans (8:24-25), St. Paul declares: “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”