Each August in Italy since 1980 tens of thousands of people attend a week-long gathering that is so well-known it is simply referred to as The Meeting.
The days are rich with seminars, lectures, exhibitions and entertainment around a focus involving the life of the heart, relationships and hope for the future lived in the present. The theme of the 2020 meeting gives an indication of the depth and breadth of the content: Devoid of Wonder, we remain Deaf to the Sublime.
In recent years other countries have developed their own form of this meeting and for the past ten years the New York Encounter has been a calendar highlight for many.
Last weekend the NY gathering took place as a virtual event online giving many others an opportunity to participate. The opening speaker was Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. In his reflection he suggests that we often confuse optimism and hope. He goes on to explain how optimism and hope are not the same thing.
An optimist is one who thinks that everything will be OK. The hopeful person finds meaning in every circumstance.
An optimist survives knowing that present struggles will not last forever. Optimism is not a bad thing. We are optimistic that a vaccine will put an end to the current pandemic,
However hope is a much deeper quality. Hope gives meaning, a purpose to whatever we are living, even when our present is heavy with unwanted and unwarranted suffering. A person of hope will naturally have optimism that a Covid cure will be found. But the hopeful person also knows that optimism is not enough and that life is to be lived in every moment, even and especially in difficult situations.
The optimist can survive. The hopeful person can live.
In these first days of Lent I have been thinking a lot about the Archbishop’s comment and today the thought is renewed in me in the liturgy as God presents the rainbow to Noah, the sign of the Covenant relationship God is establishing with every living creature.
God offers relationship and leaves us free to respond or not. The inclusivity of God’s covenant does not mean that everyone is automatically included whether they choose this or not. Instead God’s inclusive covenant offers relationship to everyone who accepts this gift.
Because God has entered relationship with us, this does not mean we are magically freed from suffering.Hope is grounded in the fact that something better than positive thinking is offered to us.
There is meaning in every suffering, and once we accept this we find we have the awareness to seek and find this meaning and so find ourselves living in hope.
- Take a moment to ponder the difference between optimism and hope. Think of a suffering or anxiety that you carry today. Invite Jesus to reveal to you some meaning in this and so to give you hope.
- The reflection above is based on the first reading from today‘s liturgy. There is a FFF video reflection (from a few years ago) on today’s gospel (temptation of Jesus) at this link.
- A number of people have requested the FFF prayer list be started again. So send initials of those you wish me to add. You might like to add a word or two about the intention. Send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org and know that the FFF team are praying with you.
- Today’s Lectio (below) uses both the first reading and gospel from today’s liturgy.
- I thought you might appreciate the picture above, snapped on the North Shore in Auckland a couple of months ago.
Lectio Divina 15 minutes
Lectio Divina 25 minutes