Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hope Takes a Lot of Faith


Early in this liturgical season, we’re called upon to act out of great faith in what the end of the season promises us. The reading from the prophet Isaiah is a great impetus to us as we journey for the next four weeks. It presents an immediate challenge as well as consolation. The challenge is, “Have faith even when there seems to be no reason to have it,” and the consolation is, “Life in its smallest form has the potential to come forth even when the prospect of new life seems most impossible.” It takes faith to act on what is hoped for!

The last time I ministered in a parish, I was Director of Religious Education. My first year, I asked our janitor, who was clearing a wooded area behind the rectory, if he would bring me the stump of one of the trees he had to remove. I asked once. Asked again and asked a third time when it was almost the First Sunday of Advent. The scripture I wanted to remind the people of was the Isaiah passage - “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse...” Finally, after weeks of waiting and pleading, it arrived.

The waiting was worth it. In fact, I was astounded by what he eventually brought me. He not only brought me a tree stump, he brought me it still attached to its roots!

I never imagined, never thought of what the roots must be like. The roots of this this tree stump looked like they were dancing. I laughed to myself as I thought, “Here are the dancing roots of the stump of Jesse.”

How right and just that the stump, symbol of failure, life-finished, with no possibility for new life, should really have dancing roots! Only dancing roots can bring forth new life. Only hidden roots dancing under an earth of uncertainty and injustice can bring forth the new life.

Why hope for life when the outside looks bleak – dead – forsaken? Or, an even better question is, “Why jump to the conclusion that all is hopeless?" What is needed is watering those roots so that new life will come in due time. Watering those roots so that the “unforeseen life,” in its own time, can spring forth. We water in hope.

The justice of Advent is rooted in hope. What was hoped for came about. What was longed for appeared. When all seemed impossible, what was promised showed its head. And, what was promised was God’s everlasting fidelity.

Advent encourages us to act in faith. We embrace the impossible. We actually are called to befriend it. Ours is a surety beyond proof - a surety at times with no proof at all. But, underneath, we believe the roots are dancing.

We continue to act in the face of the illogical, improbable. Out of this strength, justice will be done “above ground.” Jesus, our Justice, is among us.

~ Jo-Ann Iannotti, OP