A promise is a promise

If you believe it, you can see it — if you can see it, you can achieve it.

This mantra is often used by parents and teachers to encourage young people to think big, to have a vision, to set goals.  Without a vision of what success looks like, without a sense of what victory feels like — the chance of reaching our goal is made so much harder.  When people no longer have a sense of a better day, when people think things cannot get better than now, then hopeless-ness sets in …. and life becomes very dark.

The Transfiguration experience is one of my favorite images from scripture.  Disciples who had become discouraged because the crowds were getting smaller were invited to come away with Jesus to the mountaintop.  Disciples, who themselves were wondering about all the talk about suffering and dying, were wondering if perhaps they too needed to look elsewhere, were called to rise above and see beyond.  There on the mountain top they had a chance to see beyond the moment — to see the glory — to feel what it was promised to be like, if they but stayed the course and remained true.

A promise is defined as “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that guarantees that a particular thing will happen.”  A promise is reason to expect something.

Children may not remember everything, but they do remember when their parents make a promise.  Promise to take them swimming — you better follow through.  Promise a child that he/she will get $5 for every “A” on their report card — see how fast they run to you to collect that which they have reason to expect.

Our faith is based on a belief that what we do not see today — will come to be.  We put our faith in a doctor — or a mechanic — because of something someone has said — or because of something we know from experience.  We come to faith. 

Abram put his faith in the Lord God.  [Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18]  God PROMISED that, though he and his wife were childless, their descendants would be as great as the stars in the sky.  Reason would say such a thing was impossible.  In faith, the promise was real.  It was a done deal.

St. Paul [Philippians 3:17-4:1] shamed those who no longer held to the promise —“their end is destruction.  Their God is their stomach; their glory is in “their shame”.    St. Paul looked to the world around him — and he kept his eyes on the reality that his eternal citizenship was to be in heaven.

On this second weekend in Lent, we are called to see where we are — and where God might be leading us.  To be like Abram we must hold to God’s promise …. that if we follow his direction — if we live in his covenant — our life will be greater than the vastness that we imagine for the heavens…..we will be unable to count our blessings.

There are so many things that can rob us of the vision — so many things that want to take away our hope —so many people who see to no longer keep their promises.

Years ago there was an evangelical movement for men called PROMISE KEEPERS …. men would gather in stadiums and coliseums with other men to hear inspirational testimonies — and challenged to keep their promises.  Promises made in marriage, promises made to their children, promises made to God.  I am sure some of those men were able to see how their “stomachs” had become their gods …. and how their glory …. was superficial and fleeting … their “glory” was in their shame.

If nothing else, Pope Benedict’s resignation needs to remind us that NOTHING is forever.  What we have, who we are, what we hold on to — all is fleeting.  Somewhere along the line, he must have had many “mountaintop experiences” that reminded him there was something beyond what he has, beyond what he was doing in the present.

Each of us has something we need to see beyond — something that might be blocking the vision of truth and righteousness — some dark cloud that is blocking the glory — TODAY we are called to look beyond, to see beyond …. not into an endless space or “la-la land” — but to what God has promised and where God already is.

Sometimes we have to look beyond the humanness of the Church and the foibles of Church leadership to see Jesus standing in his kingdom … a kingdom of truth and justice.

Sometimes we have to look beyond the flaws of those we live with — as they look beyond our flaws — to see the person we fell in love with in the past.

Sometimes we look beyond the disappointments and failures of life, to see what might be if we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and be who we are in the moment with what we have at our disposal.

Sometimes we look beyond the unkept promises of others — to see what life can be like when people keep their promises.

Sometimes we look beyond the failure of the systems we find ourselves in — to create a new system.

In baptism and confirmation, we made promises [or godparents made them for us].  And at the same time, God made a promise to us.  He has guaranteed that certain things will happen …. when we die, we will rise.  If we leave behind what we have, our blessings will be more than a hundred-fold.  If we are good to others, some people will be good to us.  He never promised it would be easy — he just promised it would be worthwhile.

Do you see it?  Do you believe it?  What lies beyond today?  What lies beyond our natural sight?

hjm

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