Patheos has a new series on Engaging the New Year. Millennial co-founder Christopher Hale’s contribution is “A New Year, a Time for Hope”:
Against this grim backdrop, we come upon a new year. What ought we to expect for the next twelve months? What will we encounter on the way? A Christian can and must go forward with hope. “The one who has hope,” Benedict XVI tells us, “lives differently.”…
It’s time for hope to be lifted up again in 2016. When we walk in faith but that faith wavers, and we aren’t sure where to go, all we can do is hope. Hope is the attitude of heart that is most humble because its very presence tells us that in this life there is more than meets the eye. Perhaps we’ve unintentionally been living without hope. Maybe that explains the success of a political campaign some years ago built on this oft-neglected theological virtue. No matter one’s politics, it’s striking how eagerly vast portions of the United States desire to hope, confident that such hope isn’t false, but active and inspiring.
It’s important to note that this hope isn’t blind. It isn’t thinking that everything is okay and will be okay because it always is, and because good people somewhere will always do the right. It isn’t cheerful nor naïve. It isn’t the refusal to see the somber realities ahead and instead dream of a world without such obstacles. Hope doesn’t deny an awful reality; it looks it in the face and hopes. It acknowledges that there is good in this life even if it can’t be seen right here and now.
Working in global health, it is necessary to focus on needs and draw attention to gaps, but it is equally important to celebrate successes. When I look back on 2015, I grieve that less than half of those in need of inexpensive, effective medicine to treat and prevent neglected tropical diseases (such as hookworm and elephantiasis) received it. And at the same time, I rejoice that Mexico became the third country to eliminate river blindness, and that the Nobel Prize was awarded to two scientists who discovered the drug that made it possible. Holding in my hands both successes and failures, clearly seeing the work that remains and appreciating the progress made thus far — this is the spirit of clear-eyed optimism I hope to live in 2016.
A large reason for it is my Catholic faith. In college, I was introduced to the rich Catholic social tradition that brings ancient wisdom to modern social problems. My classes taught me about our Church’s view on war and peace, wealth and poverty, and I learned that as a Catholic I am expected to be an active participant in the building of the Kingdom of God in the here and now. I also learned that even as we are called to be ever-vigilant to suffering, we must look at the problems of this world in a spirit of faith, hope, and love, confident that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied in the fulfillment of the Kingdom.
The full series, Engaging the New Year, can be viewed here.