My topic today is hopefulness, and I will enter into the topic with a short story.
About thirty years ago Dennis Logan was teaching art in a middle school in North Philadelphia. One night he was working on his class preparation for the next day and he was trying to create something for the topic of sickness. First he drew a picture of brown leaves falling from a tree with the idea that the brown leaves would contrast with the green leaves and signify a health problem.
Then he drew a picture of apples falling from an apple tree with the idea that when we are sick we are like apples falling from the tree - we are falling away from our normal good health… Falling away from normal activities like work and having a good time with our friends.
Then he decided to show these two pictures to Sarah, his seven-year-old daughter. “Which picture should I use to talk about sickness? The leaves that are falling or the apples that are falling?” “The one with the apples.” She said. “Why?” he asked her. “Because apples are round and you can draw smiley faces on them.” She said. Once again, with an intuitive leap that we adults will never understand, a child has seen a truth that we are not in touch with.
In some mysterious way, Sarah knew that it is possible to be smiling and hopeful during those times when we are suffering from poor health. Her knowledge was not scientific knowledge. Her knowledge was not logical. Her knowledge was intuitive. Her intuitive knowledge told her that you can put smiley faces on apples that are falling to the ground, and you can put a smile on your face when you are suffering from poor health, you can be hopeful when you are feeling miserable. You can still have a smiley face.
My second story about hopefulness is found in the Bible. It is the story of King Hezekiah, which is recorded in Isaiah, chapter 38. King Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz. Shortly after he became king, he was afflicted with a disease that was killing him.
He told Isaiah, “I am in the prime of my life and I am dying. I am in the noontime of my life and my life is being cut off and ended like a tent that is being taken down. Every day I am getting weaker and weaker. I am leaving the land of the living. I will never again see another living being. I tell God about my pain. I am praying to God for healing, but my prayers are not working.”
Isaiah said, “Keep on praying. The Lord will give you a sign that He is listening. Look at the stairway built by King Ahaz. There is a shadow on those steps. The Lord will make the shadow go back ten steps.” Hezekiah looked at the steps and the shadow moved back ten steps. Then Isaiah said, “That is a sign that the Lord will bring good from your pain.”
And a short time later King Hezekiah was healed. I share that story with you today because Isaiah never lost hope. He just knew that God would bring good from the king’s illness. But I can’t blame King Hezekiah for his anxiety. It’s hard to be hopeful when you have a serious illness.
Today I find it hard to be hopeful when Modern Science comes up with new discoveries. In the late 1930s Modern Science discovered how to harness atomic energy. That knowledge was used to generate electricity. But that knowledge was also used to kill 80,000 people in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki.
In recent years Modern Science invented the internet. That gives all of us access to information that we couldn’t get before. But it also means that people’s dignity and reputations are being ruined by gossip and slander and all kinds of false statements in social media. I must admit that sometimes I am not hopeful when I look at the future.
My latest fear is the invention called Artificial Intelligence. What will it do to us in the future? I am not alone in my fears. During this past week several experts in Artificial Intelligence have been testifying about their fears in Washington, D.C.
They say that Artificial Intelligence is a danger to society because robots could create new cyber-attacks and new chemical weapons and new biological weapons that could wipe out the human race. They are calling for regulations to control the Artificial Intelligence industry.
So where can we find hope when we are facing the future? I suggest that we turn to the Bible.
In today’s First Bible Reading, two angels come forward when the disciples are watching Jesus ascend into heaven. These two angels are Ministers of Hope for the disciples. The disciples are overcome with fear of the future as Jesus departs and leaves them stranded. But the angels say, “Why are you looking at the sky? Jesus will return in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven. Jesus will return. He will be part of your future.”
Another Minister of Hope is our Catholic liturgy. It says, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” That tells me that our future will be good because Jesus will be in our future.
I will close with this short summary: On this feast day Jesus and His angels are calling us to be Ministers of Hope. Not vendors of gloom but Ministers of Hope. We pray that Jesus and His messages of Hope will always find a home within our hearts.
I will repeat that sentence. We pray that Jesus and His messages of Hope will always find a home within our hearts.