Spes (Hope), Caritas (Charity or Love), Fides (Faith), Burne-Jones, Oxford Cathedral, UK.

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{Jesus said], Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Will he be slow to answer them?  Luke 18:7-8A.

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Back in the day, this example being in the mid-60s when I was in studies for my science degree in economics (oh if only it was a science), we were given many theories and examples pertaining to macro- and micro-economics, fluctuations in currencies, supply and demand, etc. Intrigued by supply and demand where a rise in demand is echoed by a rise in prices, I asked the professor what would be the term for a situation where a consumer has everything s/he wants in this life, and needs only the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter and nothing else, hence no demand. The professor announced at once that this would be the state of “hither bliss”. Now I have searched that term for years, and never found it in any economics textbook anywhere. Perhaps you have – let me know. But brooding on this term has been interesting. “Hither bliss” suggests happiness in the here and now, so supposedly “thither bliss” would be in the beyond, perhaps heaven. So does one even consider thither bliss if you already have hither bliss? Wouldn’t it be redundant? Maybe, until you come across a situation where the here and now gets knocked for six, and you have nowhere to turn, save, perhaps, God. For example, a discovery that you have an incurable disease. Or your bank account has been hacked and all is lost and the bank claims it can do nothing. Or a car accident which leaves you crippled for life. Hither bliss can be dented or even destroyed. It is in such circumstances that many might turn to God for the first time; the true faithful will certainly do the same. But does God answer? That seems to be the theme in today’s gospel, so how does Jesus handle such a question? The quotation above, from today’s gospel,  suggests strongly that God will, indeed, respond to our “rights” and will not be slow to do so. But much of our experience suggests that we might, indeed, be in for the long haul waiting for our prayers to be answered.

Scripture says of God, A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (2Peter 3-8). God clearly has a perspective that we lack. What we want right here and now might well be placed in a divine timescale way beyond our own experience. Yes, God will answer our prayers, but in God’s good time. So what must we do as faithful children of God in the meantime? So we come to the three figures in today’s illustration above, of Faith, Hope and Charity. Our prayers are clearly made in strong hope of God’s response. Should that response not come in our good time, then where do we go? It challenges our faith. We might start questioning the very existence of God if we get no acceptable response. But in that case, where do we go, what alternative is there? We can bewail the apparent darkness, be tempted to despair, turn to “cures” such as alcohol, drugs or the like, in fact, turn in any way which is not of God. And that is where love comes in. Remember that St. Paul said now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1Corinthians 13:13). We turn to love for strength, refreshment, courage. It alone continues through all stress and strain. Where our faith and hope may begin to totter, love, the foundation of all, will stabilize us, keep us steady and see us through. Perhaps our faith, hope and love are our “rights” as stated in today’s gospel. We have a “right” as it were, to God’s love for us, always present, always active, because God is love (1John 4:8). It was that which enabled Jesus to survive his passion and death, convinced he was fulfilling his vocation from God, no matter what, and commending his very soul into God’s hands with his last breath. So our impatience with God not answering our prayers in the way we would like must be overwhelmed by our love of God and God’s love of us. We must  trust that God is aware of our needs but will respond to them in ways which are sometimes unknown to us, just as they were unknown to the Lord on the cross. Faith and hope may be in tatters at such moments, but love remains. Always and everywhere, therefore, there is God’s boundless, eternal, limitless love. There lies our strength, hope and faith.

Just one last thought from my own experience. I began teaching high school in Manchester in England in 1970. I had taught undergraduates at McGill University in Montréal in Canada, but this was a very different kettle of fish. I remember coming home one day in my second year despondent. I had had a terrible day, shouting at the kids, being disobeyed, the whole thing. So I questioned my whole decision to become a teacher. If it was going to be like this every day, forget it. As I brooded on this, I glanced out of my kitchen window. I had a clear view over the neighboring roofs to the distant hills of the Pennines. And there, outlined perfectly, was a beautiful, complete double rainbow. I was transfixed, never having seen anything like it before or since. It was as if God had indeed intervened to tell me to quieten down, all would be fine. And it was. Perhaps too many times we look for God in the wrong places when God is right in front of you.


Double Rainbow in Massachusetts,, 2022.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.