I am always amazed when I read entire articles, or even just paragraphs or sentences within them, that jolt me into a more resilient hope. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan writer and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is often the bearer of that good news for me.
Most recently, Rohr posed a possibility, really a renewed creed, to be considered. He wrote: “If our God is both incarnate and implanted, both Christ and Holy Spirit, then an unfolding inner dynamism in all creation is not only certain, but also moving in a positive direction. A divine goal is always before us, waiting to be unveiled.”
I gasped with delight. His conditional “if” became my surety. I knew in my heart that his statement was true. I knew it because I am continually experiencing it.
I hear the cry in young people who will not settle for less than all possibility. I listen attentively as I connect with their call for “more.” Theirs is not a self-absorbed request for more things. Rather, they seek a deeper desire: more understanding, more clarity, more dignity, more mercy, more justice, more real freedom and less specious liberty.
Our pandemic of masked presence can now be recognized as a strangely wonderful “time out” for all of us recalcitrant humans who stubbornly cling to narrow viewpoints and ideas. Our covered faces afforded us opportunities to look more deeply into each other’s eyes. We could gaze in wonder at and through the windows of the soul. Now our new sight endows us with the transformative power of insight. It always unveils, slowly yet deliberately, a divine goal—our individual and universal goal to receive and share a now-visible “something better.”
Rohr calls this “foundational hope” and states that it “demands a foundational belief in a world that is still and always unfolding to something better.” In a related reflection, he wrote, “What has been ‘unveiled,’ especially this past year with the pandemic, is that we really are one.” We really are one: that is the grandeur of something better.
Hope lets us see the presence and action of the holy in our everyday lives. This is not an imaginary desire viewed through rose-colored glasses. It is the solid evidence of the power of love made visible in abundance.
Too easily, we proclaim: “Hope springs eternal.” Clinging to the statement, we wait for the springing possibilities. We place hope in the arms of faith and wait passively more than passionately. Rohr challenges our quietude as he quotes Indigenous Choctaw elder and Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston: “The tipping point of faith is the threshold of spiritual energy, where what we believe becomes what we do.”
What we are called to do is to live what we believe. Live in and with and through limitless hope as we always discover something better. Live with the multiple definitions of hope.
My dear husband declares, “Hope is the radical refusal to set limits.” Rooted in the power of that kind of refusal, love deepens. Insight is sharpened. There are no limits to loving and learning. More is always possible if it is not grasped as a limit!
My husband and I began a counseling practice we entitled H.O.P.E. Our son even had a wooden sign made to indicate our presence. Shaped as a hope chest, it eventually hung on the front of the beach house we enjoyed as our first Brunswick County, North Carolina, residence. Though the counseling practice had been officially “retired,” the initials yet remained as a reminder of limitlessness: Horizons Opening Potential Energies.
The sign now remains on the front entryway as a reminder of our continuing human need to live with multiple definitions of hope. It also now calls to us in the Choctaw comprehension of continuing discovery. It is our hope-filled message to ourselves, shared with all who cross our path. It is a universal tipping point, the “spiritual energy, where what we believe becomes what we do.”
As I type these words, I am reminded of a young woman who lived the reality of that spiritual energy. From the time she was a tiny tot, she railed against all that was not right in her world. Her proclamations were not universally accepted or acclaimed. Her actions for justice did not bring her constant joy or gratitude. However, they did offer a gift to the world in which she lived and loved. She lived within an unveiling and unfolding of the divine goal to discover something better.
She drummed up the courage to visit prisoners. Sometimes they were young people locked in the dark jails of being different. Other times, her visitation meant entry into actual prisons where she shook with fright as locked doors clanged shut behind her. Yet she would not be arrested by fear.
Wherever poverty and injustice reigned, she was a queen offering the riches of understanding and mercy. To further empower her ability, she became a social worker. In that capacity, she worked tirelessly as an advocate for those who had been and continued to be abandoned by society. She fought for those whose disease made them modern lepers, patients suffering from the dis-ease of AIDS and HIV.
In her world, neither color lines nor caste lines existed. There was only the need to help heal the hurting and speak truth to power. There was only a voice shouting in the wilderness for all to seek and find the good and disarm the evil.
Her life was full, though short. Multiple sclerosis trapped her body in a hopeless diminishment. Yet she strove onward. Armed with a limitlessly hope-filled spirit, she continued to work until it was no longer possible.
Her venue changed. She was determined to live “with the spiritual energy where belief is revealed in what we do.” Her life became a model for all whose paths crossed hers. Waning energy did not rob her of a continuing, empowering desire to serve. Nor did it limit her ability to call others to service.
Though her voice was too quickly silenced by death, those who heard her have taken up her mission to unveil the divine goal to discover something better.
I am among them. I hear her voice. She is my daughter. She lives in the words and work of all who labor in the continuing process of unveiling the divine goal of discovering something better. May she rest in the peace of eternal life.
I write this in memory of her.
Fran Salone-Pelletier holds a master’s degree in theology. She is the author of a trilogy of scriptural meditations, Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives, as well as a religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. She can be reached at email@example.com.