Thursday, August 6, 2015
A case for optimism: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
(Listen to this homily here).
This afternoon I would like to make a case for optimism. You know the range—optimist, realist, pessimist? The glass half-full or half-empty? Here is why I think optimism (connected to reality) is the way to go.
I have always enjoyed being around optimistic people. This probably began with my Mom. Though I didn’t always appreciate her 7:00am enthusiasm when she’d wake me up, she’s the type of person that is always joyful. She frequently says, “It’s a great day to be alive!” Or one of my cross-country coaches. He was always affirming us that we could run faster than we thought—we were capable of more than we knew.
We see both an optimistic and pessimistic attitudes on display in our first reading from Numbers. The setting—the Israelites were on the brink of the Promised Land, ready to receive God’s gift. God ordered spies to search the land and our reading describes their findings. The majority reported: “[The land] does indeed flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit. However, the people who are living in the land are fierce, and the towns are fortified and very strong...We cannot attack these people; they are too strong for us.” Note the Debbie-downer attitudes!
On the other hand, Caleb and Joshua, “…to quiet the people toward Moses, said, ‘We ought to go up and seize the land, for we can certainly do so.’” Their optimism came from a confidence in God’s fulfillment of His promises. While the task of entering the Promised Land was difficult, these two men knew it was possible—with God all things are possible. As it turns out, those who doubted in this moment never made it to the Promised Land—they were punished for their lack of trust in God. Caleb and Joshua, however, did.
With God on our side, why shouldn’t we be optimistic in life? Why shouldn’t we be joyful, full of hope and excited to live?
The narrative from Numbers affirms a basic maxim in life: whether you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right.