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Paul Blom – Hope and a Future

The Assistant Principal Religious Education of Mt Maria College, Petrie, Paul Blom recently took the time to talk about hope and future on 96five Family FM (radio station).

TRANSCRIPT:

96.5’s Justin Rouillon, Image and Technical Producer

This is Family Worship, heard Sunday Mornings from 9:00 on Brisbane’s 96five.

Thanks for joining us today on Family Worship. I’m Paul Blom, Assistant Principal of Religious Education at Mt. Maria College Petrie.

I was recently at a conference where one of the presenters asked all in attendance to reflect on the question what do you hope for in 70 years’ time? We were asked to think in silence and not to share with one another until the large group discussion time. We needed to just ponder this question for ourselves. I can tell you, it was a hard one. What a question. What do I hope for in 70 years’ time? I didn’t know. It’s not likely I’ll be around in 70 years’ time, barring a medical miracle, so why should I care? As I pondered and thought, I realised this question was more about what I wanted to leave behind, a legacy, if you like. It’s true I won’t be around in 70 years, but my children will be, and their children, and most likely their grandchildren. What do I hope I will leave for them when I am gone is probably a better question.

In the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 21, we are told that God has plans for us, plans to give us a hope and a future. What is your hope and future?

Just the other week, my mother-in-law sold the family home and moved into a rental property until she can decide where to buy a smaller house to see her into retirement. As the family gathered to help her go through a lifetime of family memories and pack up her possessions, I started to think about what might have been her hopes, all those years ago. Was she thinking of children, of which she’s had six? Was she thinking beyond to grandchildren, of which she has 15? Was she thinking of the day when she would finally move out? I don’t know, I haven’t really spoken to her about it, but I do know that she has left her legacy. I’m sure her hopes were wrapped around her children, and giving them the best start for their future. Now, as she moves on, it is just herself. Her view of the future is very different, and yet she still has hopes for the future, which is natural.

Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is biblical. Jesus is the reason for our hope, through his death and resurrection. In 2017, Pope Francis gave a TED Talk entitled “The Future You.” In this message, he explains hope in this way. “To Christians, the future does have a name, and it’s name is hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically na├»ve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows a whole dough to grow, that brings flavour to all aspects of life. It can do so much because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you.”

During Lent, I am reminded of the words from Timothy Radcliffe, who, when reflecting on the foundational story of the Christian faith, the Last Supper, said, “It is our foundational story, the one in which we find the meaning of our lives, and yet it is a story which tells of the moment when there is no story to tell, when the future disappeared. We gather as a community around the table and remember the night that the community disintegrated. Our founding story is of the collapse of any story at all, and our community looks back to when it fell apart.” Yet, this is the story that gives us the greatest hope because, in 1 Peter, Chapter 1, we are told that God gave us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

What does faith in Jesus Christ look like? What does it give us? What is different once we encounter Him? How do we live this hope? An example of the kind of hope that Jesus can give us is told in the story of the healing of the crippled woman, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 13. We don’t know her name or where she came from, but the Gospel does tell us that she was bent over for 18 years and, in all that time, she could only see the dirty ground and her feet. Seeing people in the face was impossible. Then, she encountered Jesus. He called her and, with a gentle word and a simple touch, she was immediately cured. “Woman, you are set free,” he told her. From that moment on, she straightened up and walked upright. She could see the smiles on people’s faces. She could see the sun. The shape of her previous crippled body is a symbol of all those things that stunt or distort our lives, fear, ignorance, prejudice, discrimination. She was now set free and began another way of seeing the world. She could now look into the future for the first time, one full of possibility and promise.

However, there are many signs in our modern culture that may take away our ability to see hope. The latest census results tell us that just over 1/3 of Australians say they are nones. That is, they have no religion. They have no links to a community of faith. Only 51% of Australians identify as Christian. What signs of hope and a future can we see here? Martina Sheehan in her book, “Waiting in Mindful Hope,” says, “We have good reason to hope, even though we were never promised a perfect symphony here on Earth.” Through the eyes of hope, we discover that life can be beautiful. While not perfect, it can be filled with meaning, even laced with sorrow.

When asked who or what has the most influence on their opinions of Christianity, 57% of Australians say that it’s their parents and family. As believers, it is important that we are reflecting Christ to everyone in the world today. The revered late US Cardinal, Francis George, phrased it in this way. “Hope in Christ knows that, in the end, all will be well because of Grace.” As Pope Francis asks us, we need to see beyond the past, be the light in the darkness, be the yeast in the dough, and be that individual of hope. In that way, we are leaving a legacy of hope and a future. This is the Christian hope that we should offer others, to free them from that which cripples and burdens their lives, to know their lives matter, to stand tall and see the sky. It begins with us, through our ability to love, and the way that we are able to live our lives for others.

As I look back on my mother-in-law’s move, I know that her hope and future are set because she has and still does live her life for others. Her whole life has been one of service to her family and friends and, even now, in her retirement, when it would be acceptable to be selfish and to do things for yourself, she continues to live for her children and now grandchildren and, who knows, possibly great-grandchildren. She has set her legacy with her family, one of service and love. She may not know what the future holds or where she will be going, but she has a future and its name is hope.

I would like to leave you today with a prayer of hope, a prayer by one of the modern mystics of the Church, Thomas Merton. Let us pray. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so, but I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you and I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. I know that, if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it, therefore I will trust you always. Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.”

96five’s Family Worship, broadcast Sunday morning at 9:00 on the radio at 96.5 FM and online at 96 F-I-V-E dot com.