We are currently learning about the vow of poverty in our vows class. A difficult subject to be sure. One of the subheadings in chapter 4 of Sandra Schneiders book Buying the Field is The Principle of Discernment: Trust vs. Anxiety. Near the end of the chapter she gives three reasons why we shouldn’t worry: worry is useless, there is no need to worry, and anxiety about material possessions is characteristic of pagans. These are pretty straightforward if not harsh things to hear (though we all disagreed with her definition of pagan). She makes it worse by saying
“…there is no need to worry because God is a loving Parent who knows that his/her children need material supports for their lives and is able and eager to supply those needs. If God is solicitous for nonhuman creatures, for birds and flowers, how much more concerned is the divine Parent for God’s human children. This, however is only reassuring if one actually believes and hopes unconditionally in God.” (pg. 219)
I read this last night and went to bed angry. But why? There has been a lot in the Schneiders books that I haven’t agreed with (and Sr. Regina has graciously heard my many criticisms). This though struck a chord. As a person who can be overly anxious and needs all the details to make informed decisions, trust is hard. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God, and I do hope in the Lord, but I still have day to day worries and concerns. I believe I am created in God’s image and God made me the ball of anxiety and perfectionist tendencies that I am. So was I created purposely to question God? Was this a result of the Fall? And is what Schneiders is saying go so far as to say that those who have to worry about their next meal, or those who need to worry about finding shelter for the night not true believers? Are all poor people bad Christians?
So like I usually do, I might have gone a little too far with that last thought. Obviously poor people are not bad Christians, I seem to recall a Beatitude...and that’s probably not what Schneiders is saying. But I still wasn’t able to shake this from my head. Then, as happens more often than not, the very thing I am struggling with is the thing that is addressed in the daily readings or one of the psalms for morning or evening prayer. Today was no exception. This morning we heard from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (8:18-25)
Sr. Megan in her reflection on the reading spoke about when she was teaching children the difference between hope and wishes. Wishes are the immediate, “I wish he would like me”, whereas hope is greater, it endures, “I hope for everlasting life”.
Then I went to class, worried about little things like if I would get a chance to look at the music before I had to cantor at Mass. I worried a little when I reached a point in my questioning of outright heresy when discussing Schneiders and apostolic poverty. When asked what kind of things I worry about that show I’m a “pagan” I responded with anything and everything between “did I wear a warm enough shirt today” to “if I’m not a good preacher can I still be a Dominican”. It was the class consensus that what Schneiders is saying is that it shouldn’t be all consuming. It is when you are too worried about the material things and the minutia of life it becomes a problem. The worry essentially becomes your god.
Still trying to reconcile in my head everything that had been said and what I had read, I came home and asked Sr. Megan to go over again what she had said this morning. I knew there was something there. And in discussion with the community I found some rest in the subject…
Trust is hope. Ultimate hope is the trust that no matter what, God is there. Smaller “hopes” are merely wishes. Some can be petty, like wishing your team wins the game, but some can be good wishes: good health or a better relationship or for a new job. And it might be argued that a righteous wish could be a hope because the ultimate goal is God “if he likes me maybe we will get married and live in the sacrament as one in God.” But even then there is always a greater hope. If “I hope the surgery goes well” it may or may not, if it doesn’t I will “hope for happiness in my new reality”. I will hope for God’s blessings in whatever state I am in. No matter the circumstance the hope is to be with God. Hope, as opposed to wishes, also requires some action on our part. To wish is to sit and look at the stars and wait for our wish to come true. To hope is to actively seek God in whatever situation we find ourselves in, trusting that He is always there. Does this mean that if I worry I am not trusting in God; that I have given up hope? No. I can worry about the details of the everyday, I can even worry about my future in this life. What I can’t worry about is if God will be with me. As long as I hope in God; God will be with me.