Must All Our Hope Be in God Alone?
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

"Lord may your mercy be upon us as we place all our trust in you." So prayed the psalmist. Can we honestly appropriate these words to ourselves? Can anyone here say that he or she places all hope, all trust in God? Is not the reality more likely to be found in the following prayer? …"Lord I have exhausted every thing and every one else …so now it is in your hands!"

In fact the two prayers compliment each other and so if you are more comfortable with the latter version it might well indicate nothing more than confusion between the theological virtue of hope of which the psalmist speaks and the every day habit of hope with its multiplicity of objects.

Theological hope has, like all theological virtues, God Himself as its sole object. In this context ALL our hope IS in God because He alone can grant us eternal life. So, in terms of an ultimate goal, we would be wasting our time were we to hope in anyone or anything else. Thus we can comfortably pray with the psalmist, "Lord let your mercy be upon us as we place ALL our trust in you."

But the Christian also has every reason to hope, in the more popular sense, in many people and in many things. For example, we put our hopes for good health in a sensible regime and in competent medical practitioners …our hope for prosperity in anything from lottery tickets to a university degree …for companionship and support we trust family and friends.

However, in the end, when we have spent our last dollar, buried our last friend and walked our last mile …our hope, our only real hope will be in God’s promise of permanence and peace …of eternal rest and perpetual light. Then we might well be heard to pray, “Lord I have exhausted every thing and everyone else, so now I am exclusively in your hands. And so it is that theological and every day hope meet at this blessed juncture.

If this relationship between the two levels of hope is not understood there is a danger of our using a distorted concept of Christian hope as an excuse for opting out of the obligation to work at life in a responsible fashion.

Christian hope does not mean leaving everything in God’s hands and folding our own hands. It is so easy, when faced with a problem or a challenge, to piously proclaim, "I am leaving it to God!" God may well reply, "Wait a minute, don’t pass the buck. You handle it and I will be there to help!"

It was the prevalence of this pseudo-humble attitude that enabled Karl Marx to dismiss Christian faith and hope as being the opiate of the people.

The truth is that our hope brings consolation but it does not release us from responding to the demands and challenges of daily life. Demands and challenges that God is anxious to help us meet if we turn to Him directly and through each other.

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