Dear Folks,As we continue with the season of hope, I need to point out a very special kind of hope that we all need: the hope that we can make a difference in the world. There was a time when it was believed that history is shaped by large forces way beyond us, and the average person can do nothing to affect the outcome. This has been debunked, and we know that history can be changed by the smallest thing. During the 1960’s there was a naïve hope that we could fix the world easily, because it isn’t hard, and the previous generations weren’t trying. “All you need is love,” was the mantra, and there wasa very superficial understanding of what love meant. Alas, it didn’t work, and by the 1970’s there was a cynicism that the system was deeply corrupt, that heroes were not really heroic, and it was never going to get better. Then “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” burst in on the scene. Whatever critics may have to say about the movies, the feeling of the daring, old-fashioned hero was a breath of fresh air. For our hope to be realistic, I suggest considering these issues: We need focus on being productive. There are some who put a good deal of time into complaining without moving at all toward productive action. As we expel energy, we want to consider the question: how is this helpful? Are we focusing on our own desires or a higher purpose? If we want God to bless our efforts, it is good to be about something larger than ourselves. We see in James 4:1-3 “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy, but you cannot obtain; you fight andwage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” In my years of church work, it have heard a lot of conversation about how people want things in the church according to their preferences, but I haven’t heard nearly as much about how we can do church in a way that would be more pleasing to God and more effective in fulfilling our mission. How high are we setting our sights? A big issue is perseverance. If you go through the New Testament looking for how many times it encourages perseverance, you might be surprised how often it comes up. Many start with enthusiasm, but give up when they don’t get results as quickly as they expected. The prize belongs to those who keep going. Critical is learning from our mistakes. In Bill Bennett’s book “Last Best Hope” he describes the decision to make George Washington the head of the continental army. His record was mixed, and there were a number of objections. One of the points mentioned in his favor was that “he was good at learning from his mistakes.” That hit me. I had often thought about the importance of being willing to learn from our mistakes, but this was the first time that I thought about it as a skill that one can get good at. To learn from our mistakes, we need more than a general good intention. Weneed to be able to look at things that go wrong, identify the problems, and strategize a way to do better in the future. This is an art to be acquired. Who me? We read in the Bible many stories of God choosing the most unlikely people. We see Moses asked, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?(Exodus 3:11).” See also the call of Gideon (Judges 6:15) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6).”God is calling you to greatness. Yes, you. You might not be able to imagine how, but God has bigger ideas than we do. Blessings, Fr. Jim

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