We can hope for many things! I can hope tomorrow is sunny as I have a huge amount of washing to get dry. I can hope my wife picks up some meat for dinner on her way home from work. Then there are the bigger questions about what should I hope for when a close friend or relative dies? And, at a more personal level, I can wonder what hope is there for me when I finish my life on earth?
Some of these questions are very practical in nature. If it rains tomorrow, then I can wash the next day. If my wife doesn’t pick up the meat, then I can pop out to the butcher. But when it comes to the big ticket items, like what happens after death, people will have various views. Some have a pragmatic approach, that when life is over, that’s it! However, my guess is that most of us hope for something more. We hope if we get to this place called Heaven it will be worth it – even if we don’t really know what it will be like. We might also question whether we are worthy of getting into Heaven, or whether such a place even exists?
Recently I was asked whether, in light of the recent media reports on institutional abuse by some members of the Catholic Church, I have lost my faith. I answered ’no’.
That response surprised my questioner. He wondered how I could seriously listen to the dreadful things that have been happening (supposedly) in the name of the Church and still believe. I gave this explanation: “you asked if I have lost my faith because I have discovered that there are members of the Church who are not only imperfect, but who have also participated in evil. As terrible and appalling as these events have been, discovering that members of the Church are imperfect is no surprise to me.
I find myself wondering how I might find the words that can be meaningful to the diverse group of people who are recipients of these reflections. For there is one thing that is certain: you are a unique individual in the eyes of God and God will be communicating with you in ways that only your eyes can see or your heart can discern. Those of you who have children instinctively know what I mean here. What works as a way of communicating with one child may not necessarily work with another. What each responds to is particular to them and, what’s more, something that works well with one child when they are young does not always work when they are older. In the following section I will offer some ideas on how to take this into account as you seek to hear and respond to what God is offering to you, but for now simply note that you are being invited on a journey. Where that journey goes and what it will involve will be unique to you. In this I am reminded of these words from the pen of the Catholic writer, JRR Tolkien: “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Who knows where this road you are on will lead. The question is – will you say yes to finding out?