A Future We Can Hope In
(This article originally appears in the Pastor Column of the Homer Horizon)
By Rev. Joseph McCormick, O.S.A.
Two friends were sitting at the bar sipping their beers. One asked the other: “Are you a pessimist or an optimist?” The other said he really didn’t know. So, the one said: “Well, look at your mug of beer…is it half empty or half full?” His friend replied: “It’s half empty.” The other said: “Well, that means you’re a pessimist.” His friend protested: “Well, I disagree. If it’s half empty, that means I’m halfway to the NEXT beer! And that sounds pretty hopeful to me!”
The month of January can be a time of settling into some personal doldrums. The joy of the recent holidays has passed while the bills for those holidays are coming in. The wintry weather has become mostly bitter, dreary and tiresome and it certainly limits our outside activity. The days—and its daylight--are still much shorter than in the summer. The flu season rages. Yes, January can be a time of “the blues” if not more serious depression for many.
How do we stay positive, optimistic and hopeful, when so many circumstances of our life seem troublesome or burdening? How can that woman remain happy when she struggles with a chronic medical condition? How can that man continue to enjoy his career when he has been passed over several times for a promotion? How can that Augustinian priest maintain his commitment to his life and ministry when a fellow priest –and his religious order, in general—get so criticized in the press?
Saint Augustine, the fourth century theologian, bishop and founder of the Augustinian Order, is often quoted as saying “Hope has two beautiful daughters who take good care of their mother: Anger and Courage.” There is anger at the way some things are; and there is courage to try to change those things. That dynamic serves hope.
The true virtue of hope is not a superficial or fanciful dream that is unrelated to reality. Rather it is a vision of what is possible with personal perseverance and generosity along with solidarity with others. Of course, believers see that The Other is the most important one among those others. And we pray for the guidance and wisdom that we need.
The biblical authors proposed hope for the present and future by recalling how and where the spirit of God led them in the past. When our circumstances, or our emotions are not leading us rather effortlessly into hope, that is when we need to exert some discipline in identifying where the positives are and have been. There are always some good people, good experiences, good memories to identify and embrace. After all, even a half-empty glass can prompt us to realize that there has been something good and that there is something more yet to come.