“Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope”. These words are the refrain of today’s Responsorial Psalm.This verse contains 2 important lessons for us.
The 1st lesson is contained in the 1st part of the refrain: “Keep me safe, O God”. The key message is that God is not absent from our lives. He is present and is directly involved.
We are deliberate and conscious acts of God’s will. He is our creator. As Psalm 95 says: He made us. We belong to him. He is our God; we are his people, the flock he shepherds. We have dignity; we have worth; we have value. We are special in God’s eyes. Our life matters. God loves us with a precious and perfect love. There are no mistakes in his love for us. There is no injustice in God’s loving. He only has our greater good in mind.
Since God loves us infinitely, he comes into our lives with his almighty power. He gives us his continual care, guidance and protection. He stands by us at all times. When situations / circumstances seem challenging and difficult, it is important to remember that God’s great love never changes and is without end.
The invitation of the Psalm is to open ourselves up to the presence and the action of God in our lives. Especially when hardships and troubles come, let us remember that we are not alone; God is walking beside us. At these moments, let us call out to him and cast all our cares and concerns upon him.
This is the point of the 1st Reading that describes the confrontation between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal: God alone is our help, our refuge, our comfort. There is no other source of strength except our loving God.
It would be foolish and futile to place our faith in any other person, thing, event or circumstance. Only God, not anyone else or anything else, can help us when we are weak or vulnerable or facing adversity. Pope Francis puts it this way: “The Lord does not abandon us! Even if we are men and women of little faith, Christ continues to extend his hand to save us and allow us to meet him.”
The invitation of this Responsorial Psalm is to entrust our health, our finances, our relationships, our families, ourselves, our entire lives wholly to God. Each of us must ask this question: Am I willing to say “yes” to this invitation?
The 2nd lesson contained in the Refrain to the Responsorial Psalm is found in the 2nd half of the verse: “you are my hope”. “Hope” is one of those words in our culture that is used frequently, but I would like to offer a Christian understanding of the word “hope”.
To help us understand the true essence of Christian hope, I would like to repeat some of the same points I made in the Facebook video that was circulated during Catholic Education Week at the beginning of May.
Fr. Henri Nouwen, who lived from 1932 to 1996, is one of my favorite spiritual writers. Fr. Nouwen makes the distinction between optimism and hope. Optimism and hope are vastly different attitudes. There are 3 differences between optimism and hope.
The 1st difference is that optimism means that our relationships, things, events, circumstances will eventually get better. To refer specifically to our current context, optimism is to believe that, one day, our province will permit the Stage 3 re-opening of the economy, unemployment rates will lower, and that life will improve. To have Christian hope is not to focus on things, events or circumstances. It is to focus on a person. It is to believe that the same God from the 1st Reading, who was present to the Israelites at Mount Carmel in the 9th Century BC, is equally present to us in Sudbury in the 21st Century AD and is equally involved in our history. To have hope is to trust in that presence. It is to believe and to trust that God, who is all loving and always faithful, is in charge. He is stronger than and more powerful than any adversity, including a deadly virus.
The 2nd difference is that optimism deals with changes in the future. Hope has nothing to do with the future. Hope lives in the present moment. Although we are dealing with a severe health crisis and we are living in troubled times, we trust that all of life, right now, at this very moment, is in God’s loving hands – even though we do not know when, where or how a resolution to this pandemic might happen.
The 3rd difference is that optimism is a positive personality trait that we can develop on our own through various self-help techniques. Hope is not a character trait; hope is a virtue. A virtue is an inner disposition of the heart towards goodness in thoughts, words and actions. Furthermore, hope is a virtue that comes from God himself. I can’t acquire hope by my own efforts. God alone is the author of the hope within us and among us. That’s the reason for which we refer to “hope” as a theological virtue (“Theological” means “of God”). Our only responsibility is to open our hearts to what God so desperately wants to give us. Each of us must ask ourselves this question: “Do I want to receive what God himself wants to give me?”
“Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope”. This verse is an excellent summary of the way we ought to live our lives during times of trial. As our Eucharist continues, let us offer 2 prayers to God. First, regardless of what happens in life, may God give us the courage to go to him and to say, “I am in trouble. I need you; help me”. Second, once having placed everything in God’s hands, may God give us the grace to live with authentic hope.
Amen. Deacon Roland Muzzatti June 10, 2020