This weekend, having listened to God’s Word I want us to now reflect on expectations, and on the virtue of hope.
Consider the miracles performed by the Prophet Elisha in the Old Testament reading and by Christ in the New Testament. They were not magical events or quick solutions to bring the people to a standing ovation, to get an applause, or to gain popularity, or even to distract them from the hard realities of life.
A miracle is a sign that, in a particular place, at a particular time, heaven and earth become fused together - in other words, the Kingdom of God is visibly recognized through a particular event. For example, in this Holy Mass, a miracle will take place. That is what I expect. My hope brings me to this altar every day with this expectation.
So what were the hopes and expectations of those who encountered the holy prophets and even Christ himself?
Whereas in the Old Testament the prophet Elisha was expected to be a man of God and to speak on behalf of God, in the New Testament, Our Heavenly Father hopes that Jesus will to be recognized as his Son, and that His words and actions will demonstrate the He is the actual embodiment of God with us.
But unfortunately, the people we meet in the scriptures treat Jesus as just another prophet, a holy man like the prophets of old who could also feed multitudes with a few loaves of bread. Yes, they get fed by Christ, but they don't really know who He is. They hope He will simply feed them when they get hungry. In fact, the people want to make Christ King hoping that He will be their bread dispenser at the press of a button!
There is a big difference between the virtue of hope, and neediness. Hope encourages us, despite our weaknesses, disappointments, hardships and battles, hope, infused with God’s grace, encourages us to keep on going even when we are hungry. It’s not a quick fix.
But can hope go wrong? Of course it can. How?
1. When we hope for immediate results. Christian hope has as its goal, to arrive at a point when someday we will possess God completely. Our weaknesses and our sinfulness will often have us lower that goal. Instead of pointing us toward God we convince ourselves that it’s best to settle for immediate goals such as what I want right now.
2. Then there is misguided hope. When our hope becomes less than God, we can open ourselves up to unnecessary hurt and disappointments. We quickly find out, that despite appearances, that those around us are not perfect, and those around us, can not give us lasting happiness. Someone might have a misguided hope of what a relationship might produce. Or when we place all our hope in the wrong thing, or the wrong person, easily we can become bored, angry, disappointed.
3. Then there is false hope. We may have high expectations of others. But when we start placing all our hopes in each other, it’s easy to feed off each other to make ourselves feel good. We might do the same with other things. No, God alone wants to feed us, loves us, not because we are good or do great things. He loves and feeds us because HE is good. He is and always is a good God : ) The gods of this world do not keep their promises. God does, because He alone is complete and satisfying goodness.
So how do we rediscover that deep, deep hunger, our soul’s thirst for God that no earthly bread can satisfy?
First, ponder this - if God’s love for me knows no limit, then my hope in God can never be only to a certain point. He will always exceed our greatest hope.
That’s the sadness of the Gospel today - that the people could only see Jesus as a breadwinner and not much more.
We must be determined to go deeper and never let the thick paint of pride gloss over even our faults, our vulnerabilities or our weakness or even the memories of our sins. Instead of allowing them to disturb us, they can allow us to show God, not only how much we need him, but that we instead have confidence in His great love and mercy that goes beyond even our greatest hopes and expectations. “The hand of the Lord feeds us. He answers all our needs”.