A Reason For Your Hope

(Homily for Sixth Sunday of Easter - Cycle A)

Bottom line: We do not fear the dark. We experience life as a mysterious adventure. And we are convinced that - because of Jesus - the adventure will not end with death. That is the reason for our hope.

Today St. Peter tells us to "be ready to give an explanation - to anyone who asks you - for a reason for your hope." We live in a time when people more openly challenge our faith. It is important to know how to respond and - as St. Peter say - "do it with gentleness and reverence."

I would like to give an example. Recently the famous physicist, Stephen Hawking made news by stating - I quote:

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

How would a Christian respond? First, he would point out that we do not believe in heaven because we are afraid of death. If anything, the opposite is the case. If death were simply an endless sleep, who would be afraid of that?

Shakespeare got it right. Surrounded by troubles, Prince Hamlet sees death as an easy way out out. He say, "To sleep. To die. No more." Death appears attractive, but then he asks, "To sleep? To die, perchance to dream. There is the rub." In spite of what Stephen Hawking says, no one knows for sure if death is really the end. Hamlet adds, "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come..."

People do not so much fear death, but judgment. All of us - even Stephen Hawking - feel uneasy about things we have done. We fear judgment. If someone judges us, we react - at times violently.* But for us as Christian death involves more than judgment. We know - as St. Peter say - that Christ suffered for our sins. Looking at the cross, we can approach Jesus with confidence. We know that he will judge every person, but for those who trust in him, he will extend the divine mercy.

We are not afraid of death because no matter what we have done, Jesus is greater. He tells today, "Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father."

So what then is the reason for our hope? In spite of what Professor Hawking says, our hope does not depend on proving that man has a spiritual nature - although it is possible to do that. The earliest Greek philosophers were materialists: Like Democritus who believed that everything (including us bipdeds) was nothing more than a combination of atoms. But then along came Socrates, who asked deeper questions. He argued that we have a spiritual essence - a soul - that continues after death.**

It is not unreasonable to believe in a spiritual afterlife. Our faith, however, is not so much in the survival of the soul, but in the resurrection of the body. That is what we say in the Creed, "We look for the resurrection of the dead." Or as we will say more personally beginning this Advent: "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead."

To sum up: We do not fear the dark. We experience life as a mysterious adventure. And we are convinced that - because of Jesus - the adventure will not end with death. That is the reason for our hope.


*It is significant that the one Scripture quote almost everyone knows is, "Judge not lest ye be judged." Complete non-believers will cite it when they perceive that a Christian is judging them. At the same they have no hesitation judging us.

Because of this fear of judgment, we need to constantly emphasize solidarity and mercy. In addressing the sin of abortion, Fr. Frank Pavone strikes the right balance.

In the midst of the abortion tragedy, the Church does not point fingers of condemnation. Rather, the Church extends hands of compassion and help to lift up out of despair those who are tempted to abort their children.

The Church informs her people of the many alternatives to abortion and says, “I am with you and will enable you to say ‘Yes’ to life.”

Prayer: Lord, may we reach out to those who are tempted to abort because they feel alone, that they may know that we and You are with them.

**For more on the Greek - and Jewish - views of the afterlife see: Reasons for Belief in Afterlife

Spanish Version

From Archives (Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A):

2008 Homily: Not Leave You Orphans
2005: Why Benedict?
2002: I Don't Love Her Any More
1999: "If you love me..."

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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From Mark Shea: Hawkings. Again.

Worth Reading: "Catholic League president Bill Donohue has prepared a 24-page response to the John Jay College for Criminal Justice Report on the "Causes and Context" of clergy abuse.

"While he praises the study on several counts, he faults the authors for not allowing their own data to drive their conclusion on the role that homosexuality played in the abuse crisis.

"Sections within Donohue's critical analysis include the following: Overview; Comparative Data and Tainted Sources; Bishops Respond; The Role of Homosexuality; The Elephant in the Sacristy; The Seminaries; and, The Resolution of Cognitive Dissonance.

"Copies are being sent to all the bishops, many in the media, and to a select group of educators and attorneys; members of the league's board of directors and board of advisors will also receive a copy."

CATHOLICISM: U.S. Broadcast Premiere Announced

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