Hope Against Hope - A REFLECTION FROM FATHER RILEY



The ball flew deep into the summer night. I had again powered a home run over the left fielder’s head with my 29” Little League Louisville Slugger bat, crowning my youthful baseball journey.


It began on a dirt diamond with a chicken wire backstop in the panhandle of Texas. My dad assigned me to right field where I hopefully would do little damage. My batting revealed me as “right out.” When I was nine my family moved to the “real” city of Farmington, New Mexico. My baseball journey nearly ended after I was cut from the Giants — Farmington’s little league team — for two successive years. But when a “minor” league (no sponsors or uniforms) was organized, I signed up.


In his love of baseball, my dad took me to an abandoned field on the Navajo reservation and pitched to me. He inadvertently hit me with one throw. He felt so bad for “beaning” me, but it was a gift. While it hurt, I got back in the batter’s box, and played through what had been my fear of the ball. My minor league team learned the newly found, fearless power of my bat: outfielders chasing balls to the orchard which edged our field. The coach who had twice cut me suddenly invited me to don the wool and cotton uniform of Farmington Giants. In my first game as a Giant I hit two home runs.


Now, it would be fair to ask, “What has baseball to do with hope?”


For me, a batter goes to the plate knowing that good professionals hit only one in four times at bat; the best one in three.


Fully knowing such risk, we step up, full of hope for success. We also know that seemingly everyone has to battle through a slump, a battle fueled by hope.


Angry clouds darken our world, our country, our communities with a seductive gloom. Gun violence, political stalemate, rhetorical ugliness, economic vicissitudes are among forces that cloud our hope.


In an interview, conservative columnist and editor Andrew Sullivan was asked whether he was optimistic about our future. His reply was, “Not optimistic, but not without hope.”


In a letter to Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul names three Spiritual Gifts: Faith, Hope and Love. These are gifts to be received. They are freely offered, always available. Imagine them on your porch along with your Amazon delivery, waiting to be taken in, put to work and shared.


Hope is there, waiting for us to own it, share it and use it. I’ll close with a parable:


One evening, a tribal elder told his grandson about two wolves that live inside us, constantly in conflict with each other.


One wolf is evil: It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.


The other wolf is good: It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.


The grandson paused and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The elder replied, “The one you feed.”


Have you today “fed” hope?