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The Future Has a Name

One of the popular things in the media world right now is Pope Francis’ TED Talk, filmed in April, 2017.  The Pope is always a compelling figure, so I watched it with great anticipation.  I was not disappointed with his message.  Sometimes, I am amazed at how relatable this guy---some would say, old man---really is.  I was intrigued what his message would be.  As usual, there are many significant sub-themes, but I want to focus on his one major theme.  It is worth noting his overall theme is the future, so let’s center in on one particular place he deals with that.
   
I center on one particular section or big paragraph.  The opening sentence is very clever.  The Pope says, “To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.”  That is a cool way to introduce the theme of “future.”  For the Christian, Francis claims, to talk about the future is to talk about hope.  Rather than analyze what he means by this, we do well to quote some more papal words. 
   
The Pope begins to develop his ideas with the very next sentence.  He says, “Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing.”  That is very important.  Naïve people are not hopeful.  They are like people buying cotton candy expecting it to be food!  You take a bit and it evaporates in your mouth.  I learned a long time ago that hope has to be possible for it to be hope.  It cannot be some kind of wish dream.  And the Pope is certainly correct when he says hope is not ignorance.
   
In the next section of that paragraph, the Pope introduces some theology.  But it is not heavy-duty theology.  Listen to this longish sentence.  “Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.”  That is powerful.  Hope is, indeed, a virtue.  I have written three books in which hope appears as a virtue.  But I think the Pope describes it far better than I have.  Hope does not lock itself into darkness.  That does not mean we won’t see dark times.  As surely as night follows day, we will have dark and troubled times.  But people of hope do not get locked into these times.  Hope does not become despair---that prison out of which we never get.
   
Furthermore, hope does not dwell on the past.  Again, the Pope is not saying hope is ignorant of the past.  It may be very good to remember the past.  The past can be an effective teacher---even if it were a hard lesson.  But we don’t dwell in the past.  And what the Pope has to say about the future is quite insightful.  He tells us not simply to “get by” in the present. Simply getting by is not much of a way to live.  Rather, hope gives us a way to see a tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the hope.  And we have it today!
   
The Pope, then, becomes poetic.  He suggests that “Hope is the door that opens onto the future.”  I like the idea of hope as a door.  Doors offer access; walls block access.  Hope is a door.  In this sense hope offers possibility.  Hope knows there is a way.  I like the idea that hope is an opening.  That is the opening to our tomorrows.
   
Francis continues to analyze hope by introducing a couple of metaphors.  First, the Pope says, “Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree.”  Hope is a seed.  To hope does not mean we have to see the whole thing---to know the whole story of the future.  Plant the seed and some day you may get a tree.  Now that is faith.  But hope always demands some form of faith.  And then Francis switches metaphors.
   
He moves from seed to yeast.  He suggests, “It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life.”  This is an organic metaphor; yeast is alive.  It is a form of action; things happen with yeast, just as it does with hope.  Yeast and hope are lively.  Again, I feel the power of hope in a way I never feel empowered by “wishing.”  To wish something feels fairly weak, if not, passive.  Hope has power.
   
There is more in this single paragraph, but let me end with one more sentence from the Pope.  He points to each of us when he says, “A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you.”  I find this both reassuring and challenging.  It is reassuring because a single individual can make such a difference.  If one person has hope, hope exists.  I can always be that individual.  But it is also challenging because as a person of faith, I accept that it is my responsibility to be a person of hope.  My hope is not necessarily that things will get better.  My hope holds that there is a future---a tomorrow. 
   
In faith I am confident this is the Divine promise.  Regardless of what’s going on, there is hope.  Regardless of what happens, there is a tomorrow.  For the Christian, even death carried within it the seed and yeast of hope.  Through death comes life.  This is not fact; but it is true and meaningful in faith. 
   
I thank Pope Francis for giving me hope and for knowing the future has a name.  

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