Hope
  • Sunday, September 29, 2013

19 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: Jer. 32:1-3a, 6-15 • Ps. 91:1-6, 14-16

Alternate: Amos 6:1a, 4-7 • Ps. 146 • 1 Tim. 6:6-19 • Luke 16:19-31

While under house arrest, Jeremiah hears the word of the Lord telling him that his cousin Hanamel will visit, and that he will bear these words: “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours” (Jer. 32:7). Securing this portion of land, even if occupied by a foreign nation, Jeremiah lays claim in hope that a homeland free of foreign domination will yet await his descendants. “Judah will recover her freedom” (Jerome Bible Commentary, p. 328.) Imprisoned, he is planning by the inscrutable providence of God for his people’s eventual return home after Babylon exhausts its power, falls to the Persians, and the Persian king, Cyrus, though unknowingly serving the one true God, allows the Jews to migrate home.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith, hope, and love take the long view, and they alone remain (1 Cor. 13). In this great hope, Jeremiah is able to see a future deliverance in spite of his own peril. “Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; I will protect him because he knows my name” (Ps. 91:14). Such intimate words are never to the individual alone, but to the nation. “The Lord sets the prisoners free,” the prophet thinks, even as he sits confined, knowing that a small plot of land contains a promise of liberation. Thus the prophet prays, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live” (Ps. 146:2). Hope is not lost, nor can it be taken, for it is drawn up from a well of grace that will never be exhausted. Into the centuries of centuries hope lives.

Hope grows in the face of need, for need creates yearning. Jeremiah hoped, as did St. Paul, as did Polycarp, all under house arrest. Could a man going to his death be more hopeful? “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal high priest himself, Jesus Christ the Son of God, will build you up in all faith and truth and gentleness, without anger and in patience and forbearance and tolerance and self-control” (Polycarp, Nn. 12, 1-14).

Fill every need to the full, however, and a gaping chasm may be fixed between the heart and the forward yearning of hope. Satiate every need, stuff the stomach, bruise the brain with alcohol, take only the finest of everything, and you will discover that you are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph, or the ruin of anyone, the emaciated Lazarus, or the millions who look like him (Amos 6:6; Luke 16:19-31). When the senses are always full, they are dull.

Impossible though it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven by his own merit, God is able by grace, and by the force of a command which is the costly consequence of grace, to help the rich man hope again, to help the rich man move from his heart to the world. God begins with a crisis, a judgment, truth-telling. You brought nothing into this world, you will take nothing out. Trapped by senseless and harmful desires, many people have plunged into ruin and destruction. Do not be haughty or set your hope on uncertain riches, but on God. Be rich in good words, generous and ready to share. Take hold of that life which is really life (1 Tim. 6:6-19). The imperative follows the indicative. You will take nothing out of this world! Many rich people plunge into ruin and destruction! Your hope is that God will get you, and help you give.

Look It Up
Read Ps. 146:4. Feel what it is saying.

Think About It
The restless heart is hoping.

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