On the fourth Sunday of Advent I was reflecting on hope and what keeps me from living in hope. Disappointment- or the fear of being disappointed- is what squelches hope in me. The Gospels this week tell us of people who hoped in the midst of fear and anxiety. Mary and Joseph were afraid at the angels’ greetings. They were confused at messages that seemed impossible and at requests that seemed beyond their capacity.
During my retreat last month I spent some hours with Henry Tanner’s painting The Annunciation. He seems to capture the moment between the angel’s greeting and Mary’s “yes”. Everything about it says, “How can this be?” I know that I wonder and worry about whether I am hearing God clearly and if I am capable of doing what is asked of me. These are two separate movements: discerning the call and having the faith to respond.
It is helpful to me to look to my heroes in hope, people who have lived a vibrant faith despite their own fear and the criticism and nay-saying of others. My cast of exemplary characters include those you would expect: Dorothy Day, Archbishop Oscar Romero, St. Elizabeth Seton and of course Jesus! But I also have been blessed with mentors like my mom, many teachers, Sisters of Charity, friends, patients and co-workers who have shown me what living in hope looks like. The women of the Santo Niño Project in Anapra are among my current mentors as they go on day by day amid violence and uncertainty, caring for their handicapped children and those of others “with love beyond all telling”.
A song by Rory Cooney is in my mind today: “Do Not Fear to Hope”. In these last dark days of 2010 I pray that my hope is not eclipsed by fear. I will choose to spend some more moments looking to God and letting that light overcome the darkness. Advent blessings to you all!