It was one of those wonderful news stories. A little 9-year-old girl had been invited to throw out the first ball on opening day. Dressed in jeans and a team shirt, blond ponytail bobbing behind her, she ran out to the pitcher’s mound and threw the ball across home plate. But that wasn’t what made the story newsworthy. It was the moment when the catcher took off his mask and the little girl, realizing that the man behind the mask was her father, a soldier who she thought was still in Afghanistan, ran headlong into his waiting arms, that the magic happened. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“[B]ut we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint.” Certainly that family had endured much because the man had chosen to serve his country in the cause of peace. Certainly that little girl had endured much in the absence of her father. But in the end their hope did not disappoint.
“But,” you may think, “this is just one isolated story.” But is it? If we just open our eyes and look around we’ll see that there are many brave people who are willing to endure affliction for the sake of people they don’t even know. Soldiers from around the globe cooperate to help create a more peaceful world and through their endurance they forge proven character. A building collapse in a developing nation country kills hundreds and in response people of character come forward to identify corrupt building inspectors and business owners. Worshippers in houses of worship are attacked ,yet, even in their affliction, survivors find strength in the love extended to them by perfect strangers. And when storms bring flooding to the Midwest and forest fires spread across Canada, people of character rush in to offer hope.
Where is this “love of God” which Paul tells us is “poured out into our hearts?” Where is this hope which “does not disappoint?” Well, for starters, you might want to look into the eyes of that little 9-year-old girl.
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.