My, oh my. There is certainly more than enough discouragement going around these days. The coronavirus just won’t let go and its spread continues to worsen. A person interviewed on last night’s news actually spoke of feeling crushed by all that is unfolding. I expect that is not an uncommon sentiment.
In all of this, is there any ground for encouragement, for hope? Well, of course there is. It is found in a person, Jesus Christ, and in the awareness that he is with us. But if encouragement is to arise from this, more is needed than mere words. We know well enough by now that great effort is needed to following faithfully all of the pandemic protocols. It would seem that letting down our guard in that respect is enabling the virus to gain more and more footholds. Well, some effort is also needed if we are to draw from Christ the encouragement he alone can give us.
Consider the Gospel parable we heard proclaimed on Sunday, the familiar one of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). It is the story of a master entrusting his property to his slaves and expecting them to invest it wisely for a good return. Among the gifts that the Lord Jesus has entrusted to us is that of faith in him. He asks that we invest it well, so that it yield within our hearts the “return” of hope.
This kind of investment means daily making a decision to live by faith and not by fear. The essence of faith is given to us by St. John: “[We] have known and believe the love that God has for us” (1John 4:16). Faith begins with the acceptance of the love of God as manifested in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We either believe that Jesus loves us, or we don’t. If we do believe this, then we need to invest ourselves fully into the decision to trust that he simply will not abandon us and is with us always in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The return on this investment is real hope. As Pope Francis has pointed out, hope is different from expectation. The latter arises from our own desires and needs and is thus often unmet. This, in turn, gives rise to disappointment, disillusionment, and, yes, the feeling at times of being crushed under the weight of what we cannot control. Hope, on the other hand, is centered upon the Lord and his love, and arises when we fully invest our faith in the truth that Jesus is with us, he “has our back,” and has the power to lead us, however difficult the circumstances or painful the journey, to where he knows we need to go, to where he wants us to be.
Stock markets are volatile, and investments in it are not always secure. This leads investors to be reticent and to hold back from putting everything into the market. God’s love is steadfast and sure; in it there is no unpredictability. With confidence we can invest everything in that love. That’s what faith is, after all – it is “all in!”
So, let’s be the good investors to which the Gospel calls us. Let’s not bury our faith in the ground of fear, but invest it fully in the truth of God’s love. Hope is the sure return on that investment.