Here I comes again, another daily wish.
This time something which will make my day easier,
An expected compliment,
Some reward, expected, but not too expected.
Like butterflies in my head,
In My own little garden of Eden.
However, wishes, like butterflies, are often fleeting,
Requested by my ego, to make my life,
Even more perfect.
I often call them hopes as well,
And when I really want them, hopes and wishes.
However, they have little to do with hope,
At least hope as it comes from God.
How long have I misunderstood this,
That hope is confidence,
Not confidence born of me, but of God.
This gift is given freely,
And is always available, unlike my butterfly wishes,
Which often only serve me, even when disguised through petitions.
Turning off the wishes faucet my make me aware of the other source.
The one which controls the light in this darkened room.
And fills it with grace and love.
Recently, while leading a retreat on Hope, someone gave great insight into the issue of hope. Rather, the topics of wishes and hope.
It seems today, more than ever, we replace the word wish with hope in our everyday language. I hope you pass that examination successfully; I hope you get that new job, I hope I get a promotion at work, you get the idea. Many of these “hopes” are, in reality, just wishes. So what is the difference between the two? For many, at least in a secular, everyday sense, there is little or no difference. The word hope has sort of lost its theological meaning, which is, it is a virtue and gift from God. Turning inward towards ourselves, many of us use the word which represents something compelling, into just a daily litany of requests for myself or others close by me.
One way I differentiate wishes from hope in this way is to consider wishes like butterflies. These are landing from one spot to another, many occurring during a day, week, or month. Some may be more meaningful than others, but they fall into a category of continuing requests, which seem to have little to do with God and the virtue of hope.
On the other hand, Hope is a gift that we cannot see; it is a permanent presence of an expectation of God’s action in our lives, even when we least expect it. Hope is there for us, perhaps not to see, but rather to feel. It is knowing that God is there for us. Providing us with a confidence which does not reside in our minds but instead emanating from our soul. This gift, which is not of our doing, is directly transmitted to our heart from our soul, thereby giving us this peace-filled confidence He will be there for us. Always. And when it matters most.
Perhaps this week, we can consider the gift of hope. It is a gift freely given to us, and how we can appreciate it without tying it to a bundle of our personal needs. Instead, it is there to give us innate confidence that God will always be there for us; regardless of the circumstances and conditions. All we have to do it have an open heart and an expectation. An expectation best expressed by the mystic Julian of Norwich when she said. “All will be well, all manner of things will be well.”
THE STREET PREACHER
I recently connected with a good friend Jim who had moved to Florida several years ago. Jim is a dedicated Christian and, more recently, has decided to move into full-time ministry
What is interesting about Jim’s story is the type of ministry he’s decided on; street ministry. For most of us, particularly Catholics, the thought of street ministry or street preaching would send shivers down our spines. Standing outside of Walmart or some other public place waving a sign cooling others to the word of God seems to be as un-Catholic a method of evangelization as I can think to imagine. Our methods of evangelization are either internal and very formal such as catechesis; or based on works of mercy and service. These might include food ministry, helping the homeless, visiting those who are ill, and many others.
Now I’m not suggesting that we immediately go down to our local sign maker, take our favorite lines of scripture and then stop parading up and down Main Street. However, I do think there is something to be learned from Jim’s experience.
It turns out the street preaching is not always verbal but can lead to that; in his initial efforts, Jim will create a sign, usually with scripture or a scriptural message, and then just let the sign speak for itself; he is merely the sign holder. As you could imagine, this brought several different responses. Some ignored him as if he wasn’t there; some glanced at him; others made kind comments or acknowledgments some made comments that were less so kindly. Then, over weeks in different locations, Jim found others spontaneously talking to him about while he was doing, what the message was, or their own experience of what the message meant.
Just the pure boldness of Jim’s evangelization strategy calls me to action as well. Not that you’re necessarily going to find me on the side of the street with the sign proclaiming Jesus’s call to action in the world, but it did make me think while this was so difficult (for me). As Catholics, we like to do our evangelization quietly or with other aid such as food, resources, assistance to others. The aid and the assistance speak for God’s action and our participation in it.
But are we missing something? Are we willing to be as bold as Jim? Could you stand there with the message and be ready to defend it? These are great questions right now are milling around in my heart and soul. It makes me think how willing I am to be there proclaiming his message in one of these bolder ways. When Pope Francis talks to us about leaving the church’s door and meeting people where they are, street preaching may not be as far out as we think. Missionaries have taken on far more dangerous tasks over the years in church history. But it appears we always want the shield of a gift or service that we’re trying to offer; it seems we can only be most comfortable when we have something to help us evangelize.
Perhaps this message from a Protestant street preacher can give us some confidence to be even bolder in our message to others. Perhaps not in the street, but within the family, amongst friends, and those who might be unwilling to listen. Even those reluctant to listen may have an interaction with you that sets them on the journey of discovery and exploration with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps not immediately but in a future time unknown to us. God Bless.
A cross on a walking trail in Southern California near the San Gabriel Mountains