Let us turn to our First Reading from the Book of Exodus, the second Book of the Holy Bible. The image of Moses holding a staff in his outstretched arms is often recalled as an image of prayer. Indeed it is a beautiful image. It is even more beautiful if we put it in the context of the events which preceded it.
The passage which the Sacred Liturgy gives us this Sunday brings us to the happenings which followed the Exodus from Egypt. When the Israelites camped at the beaches of the Red Sea they realised that they were pursued by the Pharaoh army. They cried and blamed Moses for exposing them to such a danger. What happened next? At God’s commandment Moses raised his staff and parted the waters of the Sea. When they were saved from Egyptians they began crying and blaming Moses for exposing them to starvation in the desert. What happened next? There was manna and quails. When they were saved from starvation they began crying and blaming Moses for exposing them to dehydration in the desert. What happened next? At God’s commandment Moses raised his staff over a rock and after hitting it with the staff he brought out water. So many disappointments Moses went through dealing with his people who didn’t embrace his faith in God.
As we listen to that passage from the Exodus we can imagine what was going on in Moses’s head. Looking at his stubborn and faithless compatriots, while holding his staff in his tired arms, he could so easily give up. It was a hopeless situation. These people were not advancing in faith. Why did he keep stretching his staff over the people engaged in a battle? Was he optimistic? Did he have a positive attitude? It is hard to be optimistic and positive in a situation like his, isn’t it?
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! From outside the both situations presented to us this Sunday appear hopeless. However the perseverance of Moses and the widow reveal a divine gift which was determining their actions. That divine gift is called hope.
A descendent of the people on whom Moses didn’t give up, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, put it this way: ‘Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for better; hope is belief that together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.’ Drawing from today’s readings we can say how true these words are. Both Moses and the widow were active in the hoping. Both Moses and the widow had courage despite having gone through many disappointments.
Let me highlight the big word: together in what the Rabbi Jonathan said. This big word takes us to God. It is God’s involvement in the history of the world and in our own personal history that we dare to say: ‘hope is belief that together, we can make the world better.’ God and we makes together. Rabbi Jonathan drew his belief about hope from the saving events treasured in the Old Testament. For us Christians it is Jesus Christ from whom we draw our belief about hope.
In one of our Eucharistic prayers we speak to God the Father in this way: ‘Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people, Jesus stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the Resurrection.’ The Crucified Messiah and our hope belong together. Those outstretched arms of Jesus Christ raise up our hope.
I would like to finish with another insight of Rabbi Jonathan which for us, the followers of Jesus Christ becomes truly powerful: ‘There are no logical grounds for hope. There are no logical grounds that tomorrow will be better than today. But God doesn’t give up, and for that reason, neither do we.’
Look, my Dear fellow hopers, at Jesus on the cross. He is the new Moses through whom God assures us that he is with us. Thus ‘The lord be with you,’ becomes a powerful message we can take home. In the Lord Jesus we believe. In the Lord Jesus we hope. That’s why there are no hopeless situations for us who believe in Jesus, but there are situations which become an opportunity for us to manifest our hope for living and believing.