The Anchor of Hope

Dr. A. Pushparajan

Finally Pope Francis takes up for consideration some attitudinal factors that could drag missionaries to the grip of the missionary crisis. He refers to the “lack of deep spirituality which turns into pessimism, fatalism, and mistrust” which induces people to think “that nothing will change and it is useless to make the effort. They think: “Why should I deny myself, my comforts and pleasures if I won’t see any significant result?” (# 275). This the Pope condemns as “self-destructive attitude.” And he cautions that it is “only a malicious excuse for remaining caught up in comfort, laziness, vague dissatisfaction and empty selfishness.”

As against it, EG suggests that one has to positively develop the attitude of hope. Even generally, people “cannot live without hope: life would become meaningless and unbearable.” Especially for us Christians there is absolutely no reason to lose hope. “We need to recall that Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death and is now almighty. Jesus Christ truly lives. Put another way, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). That “Christ is risen and glorified, is the wellspring of our hope, and He will not deprive us of the help we need to carry out the mission which He has entrusted to us” (#275b).

Moreover, “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. (# 276).

The Pope is realistic enough to acknowledge that “new difficulties are constantly surfacing: experiences of failure and the human weaknesses which bring so much pain…that sometimes a task does not bring the satisfaction we seek, results are few and changes are slow, and we are tempted to grow weary” (#277a). We may even be “overcome by chronic discontent and by a listlessness that parches the soul. It also happens that our hearts can tire of the struggle because in the end we are caught up in ourselves, in a careerism which thirsts for recognition, applause, rewards and status” (277 b). The Pope is pained at the fact that in cases like these “we no longer grasp what we seek, the resurrection is not there” and that “the Gospel, the most beautiful message that this world can offer, is buried under a pile of excuses” (#277 c).

In fine, the EG’s remedial measures against the personal attitudes which hamper the success of mission the Holy Father consist of four points (1) Hope is the anchor of the whole humankind. (2) As Christians we have a greater reason to be hopeful as indicated by Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection. (3) It is not an event of the past but to be re-lived day after day. (4) Jesus Resurrection is an illustration of the ever recurring process of Life, Truth, and Light overcoming death, darkness and ignorance. Hence no excuses can justify burying this Gospel.

It is surprisingly striking that the Father of our nation also has referred to the very same four points. (1) Personally Gandhi remained always a man of hope all through his public life, beginning with his mission in South Africa: “I have had my share of disappointments, uttermost darkness, counsels of despair, counsels of caution, subtlest assaults of pride; but I am able to say that my faith…has ultimately conquered every one of these difficulties up to now. If we have faith in us, if we have a prayerful heart, we may not tempt God, maynot make terms with Him. We must reduce ourselves to a cipher… Not until we have reduced ourselves to nothingness can we conquer the evil in us. God demands nothing less than complete self-surrender as the price for the only real freedom that is worth having” (Prayer 14-15).

(2) As regards the meaning of resurrection, Gandhi was always insisting upon the Cross as the precedent to Resurrection. Once he said: “I saw that nations like individuals could only be made through the agony of the Cross and in no other way. Joy (Resurrection) comes not out of infliction of pain on others but out of pain voluntarily borne by oneself” (Bose 59). Elsewhere he said: “The Satyagrahi seeks to convert his opponent by sheer force of character and suffering. The purer he is and the more he suffers, the quicker the progress” (Bose 56). Looking at the sad situation of peace-less-ness in the so called Christian countries Gandhi remarked in one of his Christmas messages thus: “As long as it remains a hunger still unsatisfied, as long as Christ is not yet born, we have to look forward to Him. When real peace is established, we will not need demonstrations, but it will be echoed in our life, not only in individual life, but in corporate life” (Message 66-67).

(3) The missionaries of his day were keen on proving the uniqueness of their message in terms of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Gandhi always rebutted them thus: “God did not bear the Cross only 1900 years ago, but He bears it today. It would be poor comfort to the world if it had to depend upon a historical God who died 2000 years ago. Do not then preach the God of history, but show Him as He lives today through you…. It is better to allow our lives to speak for us than our words.” Referring to his close friend an Anglican Missionary, Gandhi said: “C.F.Andrews never preaches. He is incessantly doing his work. He finds enough work and stays where he finds it and takes no credit for bearing the Cross. I have the honour to know hundreds of honest Christians, but I have not known one better than Andrews” (CM 103).

Finally with regard to the overarching power that overcomes death, darkness and ignorance, Gandhi said: “There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this Unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses…. I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever-changing, ever-dying, there is underlying all that change a Living Power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and recreates. That informing Power or Spirit is God.And since nothing else I see that in the midst of death life persist, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good” (VT 103-104).

Thus it is clear that the spiritual insights of both the ‘Fathers’ indicate that we can never allow ourselves to be succumbed to the temptation of hopelessness. On the contrary we should always cherish the Hope of Joy and continue to our mission, whatever difficulties we may face in the process.

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