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Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
The theological virtues are faith hope and love. What exactly is hope? Hope means that the situation is absolutely completely out of your hands and there is nothing else you can do but depend on God. We prefer love and faith because we are able to do things. Often love and faith propel us to achieve greatness.
One day I got a call in the middle of the night from a hospital. The nurse said there is a gentleman here who wants a priest to anoint his wife. I said to the nurse that I thought she was already anointed so the nurse checked the face sheet. She got back on the phone and said, “You are right. I am so sorry to wake you up. We are all set.” I was happy to hear the news because I was tired and I wanted to go back to bed. But I had to open my mouth and I asked her, “Does the husband want me to come in?” She told me, “He would like that very much.” I then said, “Then I will be in.” When I got there, I approached a drawn curtain, pulled it open and looked inside and said to the husband standing there, “Mr. Lahaise?” He is the builder who restored our pipe organ in the church. He turned and said, “Boy, am I glad to see you.” I said, “Boy, am I glad I came.” It was faith that got me out of bed. Faith allows me to believe that what I do makes a difference in peoples’ lives. I love faith because it engages me with actions that help and support others.
Just before my Intermediate Greek class began, the professor was talking to us. He said that he just read a 480-page book on the use and role of the work hina. Hina is a Greek term in the New Testament that means “in order that.” I imagine it was a doctoral dissertation. I also cannot imagine reading 480 pages about one word. Naturally, the class gasped in horror at the thought of reading such a tome. The professor then said, “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t complaining; I love my job.” And that is why my professor, Dan Harrington, is considered the most respected Scholar in New Testament studies because he loves what he does. Now if faith can get me out of bed at two in the morning, and love can elevate a person to be one of the most respected and beloved of the scholars, then think what you can do with the combination of the two. We like faith and love because we can do something great. Yet, that is not the whole package. There is a third component and that is hope. We like to do great things, but God also likes to do great things for us.
My first assignment was in New Jersey. One day the pastor said to me:
“I’d like to take a day off and go to New York. Can you take the two funerals in the morning and the wedding in the afternoon”? I said, “Sure, no problem.” I said that because I really like my work as a priest. Needless to say, the pastor really liked to have me around for that reason. I was a hard worker and a cheerful worker. I was transferred to Boston five years later. Needless to say, he was not very happy. The day I left, I was in the van with the engine running. The pastor came over to me and rolled down the window. This was the big goodbye. Five years of working together converged at precisely at this moment. As he walked over, I was anticipating what he might say to me: “I will miss your work. I appreciate your support and dedication.” He didn’t say anything like that. He said, “I hope you don’t think you are going to Boston because you are going to do great things for God and the church. You are not going to do great things for God. You are going to Boston because God wants to do great things for you.” Then he turned around and left. I wasn’t expecting that, but he was right.
I have been in Boston now for about twenty-some years and I think I have done a few good things. Shortly after I arrived in Boston, my mother was diagnosed with lupus. I got to spend a lot of time with her before she died. We got very close. That would not have happened if I did not go to Boston. The pastor was right. I went to Boston because God wanted to do something great for me.
Simeon spent his life hoping that God would bring salvation to Israel. That is a tall order. In addition to that, Simeon also wanted God to save the world. That is something that can only be done by God. Simeon’s prayer goes beyond his ability. Not only was his prayer answered and his hope fulfilled, but what was completely and totally out of his hands (salvation) was now literally in his hands: and he took the child in his arms.
We love faith and charity because we can do great things, but don’t forget the third element for the perfect spiritual life: hope.Back to All Homilies