We are living in very difficult times. Despite the huge developments in the contemporary world, many still see living as a terrible burden to bear. In dire situations, as we have in many Covid-19 cases scenarios, there is often the feeling of despondency. This year has had an overdose of such situations of near hopelessness. However, a very interesting feature of the Christian life is that it builds on hope. In the midst of the greatest upheavals, the Christian message invites us to gaze upwards, to look forward for a better future. In the midst of great tragedies, we are encouraged with a reliable promise of transformation. We are encouraged to develop a will power that never surrenders to misfortune but to keep hoping for a better state of affairs. We find this very clearly in the liturgical readings of today. They present a situation of affliction on one side and on the other side consolation. We can look at the whole picture as that of crisis and hope.
The text of Revelation 15:1-4 opens with a terrifying report of the final plague which the angel unleashes. But before we begin to collapse in fear, we are presented with a consoling vision of a triumphant horde chanting a song of liberation and victory. The imagery is that of a people liberated from bondage, as the sing the song of Moses: “Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations!”
In a similar way, the Gospel of Luke 21:12-19 paints a gory picture of persecution of Christians who will be handed over to imprisonment. But within a breath, we are encouraged that great forces will come to defend us in such terrible moments. The words are highly invigorating: “for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 12:15). One is, thus, encouraged to live with great calm and confidence in what appear to be absurd and hopeless situations. The text ends with the famous statement: “By your endurance you will gain your lives” (12:19).
Worshipping God becomes a joy when one remembers that we have a God who intervenes in crisis moments to give us new hope, even when our sinful dispositions make us unworthy of such intervention. The fact is that pain is never the last word. God always comes to bring consolation. The psalmist captures aptly God’s mode of operation when he asks Him to balance our days of pain with joy: “Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil” (Ps 90:15). The psalmist knows well that God, after tearing us to pieces, will heal us, and after striking us He will bandage our wounds (cf. Hosea 6:1).
We find such balancing of affliction with words of hope all over the sacred Scripture. The fact is that our life is hidden in God and His power takes control of our every move, knowing that we are terribly weak and surrounded by formidable contrary forces. Because of this immense power guiding us, we can exult with Paul: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:8-10).
This text makes it clear that suffering is part and parcel of our Christian life. Whether we like it not, we cannot run away from trials and painful situations. But in all these we emerge triumphant because of the great power of God guiding us. We should, therefore, never lose hope in moments of crisis and never surrender to discouraging situations.