Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday: Spe Salvi part 2: We hope for life after death.

Dearly Beloved in Christ

Last night, we began this three day celebration with Holy Thursday, the mass of the Lord’s Supper. I used the homily at that mass as an opportunity to begin reflecting on the Pope’s latest encyclical on hope. Tonight, I continue reflecting on that encyclical in the light of our present celebration of Good Friday.

The title of this encyclical is “Spe Salvi”, which is taken from the first few words of the Latin original “Spe salvi facti sumus”, which is translated as “in hope we were saved." The particular quote comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans. The full quote in English is, “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” The pope points out that redemption is always based upon hope, that the only way of living life to it’s fullest in the present is by having certainty of a goal that is worthy of the journey to receive it. One’s mind may go towards the book of JRR Tolkien called The Lord of the Rings. As Frodo is preparing to leave the safety of his home in the shire, he imagines that he will be forced to take the journey alone without the benefit of his friends Sam, Pippin, and Merry. Tolkien writes,

‘No! I could not!’ Frodo said to himself. ‘it is one thing to take my young friends walking over the Shire with me, until we are hungry and weary, and food and bed are sweet. To take them into exile, where hunger and weariness may have no cure, is quite another – even if they are willing to come. The inheritance is mine alone. I don’t think I ought even to take Sam.’ He looked at Sam Gamgee, and discovered that Sam was watching him.
‘Well, Sam!’ he said. ‘What about it? I am leaving the Shrire as soon as ever I can – in face I have made up my mind now not even to wait a day at crickhollow, if it can be helped.’
‘Very good, sir!’
‘You still mean to come with me?’
‘I do”
‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’
‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain.’ Said Sam…I am going with you, if you climb to the moon and if any of those black riders try to stop you, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said.”[1]

What is it that makes even the meek and mild among us able to carry out amazing acts of bravery such as being willing to follow a friend into death but belief in the importance of the final outcome? This type of belief is the substance of the hope on which Christians await their redemption. During this liturgy, we often focus on the cross and, while we must never seen in this cross anything less than an instrument of cruel torture and death, we must also keep in mind the hope that radiates from this cross of a man who, though sinless, was willing to give his life to wipe away our sins.

[1] Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Houghton-Miffling publishers Boston, MA. c.1987 from Book one Chapter 3: Three is company

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