I like being Catholic.
Just yesterday, a friend who inspires me through his deep faith asked if I ever study the day’s scriptures before going to mass. My answer came quickly, “Nope. I like to be surprised.”
In retrospect, my answer was pretty juvenile. But it’s true. I genuinely approach my faith and life in the church thinking, “Okey dokey, God, what nugget have you got for me today? Because I could really use something.”
Invariably, the message is received.
Today, the Catholic Church celebrates All Souls Day, a holy day set aside for honoring the dead.
With the rain falling on this gloomy Michigan day, I found myself very, very sad. I know far too many dead people. And I miss them terribly. And, almost as much, I miss who I was when I was with them.
People speak of feeling a “hole in your heart” that comes from suffering the loss of a loved one. On this All Souls Day, the hole can feel cavernous.
Cue the nugget.
Today’s scripture readings offer us the greatest solace in referring to those who have died by saying ”they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3:3)
What more could we ask for those we love?
And then those of us who remain are offered comfort and inspiration; “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.” (Romans 5:5)
Peace. Hope. Love.
What more could we ask for our world today? They each seem in short supply.
Disturbing reports of violence continue. Political attacks, by candidates and their supporters, reach epic levels of ignorance. And ripped from this morning’s headline, “Washington parents accused of injecting children with heroin.”
Sure makes living life with a cup half-full almost impossible.
A rabbi recently defined the difference between optimism and hope for me by saying, “Optimism is thinking everything will work out fine; whereas hope is believing we have the capacity to change for the better.” Couple that with “hope does not disappoint,” and I think we have the blueprint we need to inspire us moving forward.
We need to seek out reasons to have hope. We need to make an individual effort toward building peace around us. We need to share the love of God that has been poured into our hearts.
And I know this as the far, far, far from perfect Catholic that I am. And when I say far…I mean far. I can swear like a sailor, and I secretly delight in the bible story where Noah got super drunk after the flood. It’s nice to know even biblical people rise to the occasion, survive a challenge and then feel compelled to order another round.
Hope is not static. The capacity to change for the better is fed by those around us.
My sense of hope…my renewed sense of faith in humanity…was ignited late this summer. I decided I needed a change of scenery from my newly emptied nest, and took my book to sit and read at our club’s pool. After walking through the gate, my eyes were drawn to a little girl of about three giggling and bobbing in the shallow-end, buoyed by puffy arm floaties.
At just about the time I became aware that my staring was coming dangerously close to stalking, an ambulance came roaring down the four-lane street that runs adjacent to the pool.
I watched as this little brunette bathing beauty…. bowed her head toward the water and made the Sign of the Cross.
Upon hearing the siren, she paused to pray.
I have hope. I know love. We need peace.
We have the capacity to change our world for the better. Let’s keep searching for the things that renew our faith in humanity, comforted by the belief that hope does not disappoint.