Looking for hope in America

It’s easy to lose hope when the world seems to be falling apart. Every day there’s another report of a random shooting or a violent protest or record inflation or politicians promising to solve problems they created.

What can you do beside crawling back under the covers and turning off the TV, social media and your cellphone?

I’m no scholar, and I usually have to read St. Paul’s words a few times to understand them, but I’m convinced the Letter to the Romans could have been written for our predicament in 21st century America because he talks about the importance of hope when society seems to be collapsing all around us.

“We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God,” he said. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Did you get all that? (I had to read it three times.) Hope amid suffering is a message for our age. Every practicing Catholic I know wants a spiritual transfusion of hope.

Let me tell you a story about hope, a story about a fellow named “Little Bob.” They called him “little” because, well, he was little, but in the long run he was larger than life to people he helped.

Bob had a hard life, much of it his own creation, because for years he abused alcohol. He lost jobs and his marriage fell apart. Then, after a lot of personal torment, he joined a 12-step program for alcoholics and got sober. Sobriety was work, but pretty soon, his life started to get better. He found hope in his Higher Power, aka God. He got a one-bedroom apartment, left behind his drinking buddies and made new friends. He started looking at life differently.

In the morning when he woke up, he always asked God what was on the agenda for that day, because he knew there was a heavenly “to do” list. He also knew that the people he would encounter had been put in his path by God for a reason. Sometimes, he was supposed to offer a kind word, other times to listen with compassion, and still other times to provide advice, a prayer or a favor.

Whenever he asked God what he should do, he got an answer. You see, he was living the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous: We “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Think about that. Isn’t it the same thing we’re supposed to do as Catholics—turn our lives over to the care of God? And shouldn’t we always be asking for the power to carry out his will in our lives, since God has a specific plan tailored for each of us? And never forget that his plan is infinitely better than our plan.

If we commit to doing God’s will on a daily basis, we’ll ultimately accomplish more than humanly imaginable because God will be doing the heavy lifting.

All Little Bob had to say was, “Lord, lead me where you want me to go today. Show me what you want me to do today.” It was such a simple but enormously powerful prayer.

Another person I know says a similar prayer every morning, which goes like this: “Dear God, I pledge my allegiance to you. I give you my life, my work and my heart. In turn, please give me the grace of obeying your every direction to the fullest possible extent.”

You can be sure that God has a “to do” list for every one of us … every day. All we have to do is ask. Some people are hurting, some need compassion, others need guidance, some need to be told God loves them, others need to be told God forgives them. And still others need to be led out of the darkness … and into the light.

There’s a lot of work to be done to bring Christ into a world bereft of hope, one person at a time, one day at a time.