The religion of the ancient Israelites, of Judaism and Christianity was not formed in times of ease and luxury.
On the contrary: the stories of the faithful, of the saints who have stuck by God, were almost always doing it in times of famine and years of lean, of pestilence and war.
Our faith was forged in the fires of misery and death, of poverty and ruin, for
the light of Christ shines in the darkness of times like these; from the crucible of our fragile life God pulls hope and love as pure gold.
When Peter urges his flock to endure, when Paul tells his congregations to run the race, they are speaking to a people whose lives are in mortal danger, whether it's socio-political or the everyday dangers of illness, childbirth, poverty and old age.
And what is the word they are speaking?
A word of eternal life.
Or, as in the words of the prayer of St. Francis:
A word of unity in time of dischord,
Of faith in time of doubt.
Of hope in time of despair.
Of light in time of darkness.
Hope: it's not the word the world expects.
it is most likely against our first inclinations, even we who have witnessed hope, to commit ourselves to a vision of hope for the unfolding present.
To have hope, we must let go and let God.
By doing it.
And doing it.
And doing it.
Over and over and over again.
Knowing Christ will catch us.
This is where our strength lies:
and in the mystical Body of Christ -- the holy communion of saints --
And in the Holy Spirit's capacity for creativity and newness in us and through us.
We may stumble and fall, but let us find faith in the prayer of Thomas Merton:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.