The Power Of Hope This Season
Rector Chris Girata's latest article in the Katy Trail Weekly
Whenever we get close to Christmas, I begin to wonder what people think about this holiday. Of course, as a priest, my thoughts immediately take me to the traditional root of our celebration: the birth of Jesus. However, for many, this season is not rooted in a life of faith, but the rush of busy-ness. As you will likely see around town, many will say that Jesus is the reason for the season. But perhaps we can go even deeper. Perhaps the reason for Jesus was because our world needed (and needs) to be reminded of the power of hope.
A few years ago, the story of a young man in Alabama caught the attention of people around the world, including me. In October, and surrounded by his family and friends, Sid Ortis, a 16-year-old boy from Birmingham, lost his fight with bone cancer. His story captured my heart and gives me a profound sense of hope.
In August 2014, Sid was diagnosed with osteosarcoma or bone cancer. He went to a summer basketball camp and returned complaining of tightness in his knee. His parents decided to take him to the doctor to get it checked out, and in less than 24 hours, they had a diagnosis — bone cancer. Friends filled the Ortis house that night to pray with Sid, and those prayers have continued since. Sid was brave in the face of the diagnosis and began to fight the cancer aggressively. His family and community rallied around him, finding hope in their faith that he could be healed.
But Sid’s cancer was too aggressive. After more than a year of treatment and with nothing medically left to do, Sid decided to go home. During his final week, his friends skipped school to be with him. As Sid grew weaker, his friends continued to pray for him, but it was Sid’s prayer for them that struck me. Only days before his death, Sid said this prayer for his friends: “Dear Lord, thank you for everything you've given me and these wonderful friends who have been there with me through the fight. And let them all live prosperous lives once I'm gone, and let everybody stay on the path of righteousness and not get away from you. Amen.”
In the face of death, having exhausted all medical options for treatment and cure, Sid remained connected to the most powerful of gift we have: hope. His mother commented that all the activity in her house was not morose, “It's like a party. Sid's not sad. He said he's not scared. He said he would see us again.” And there is the great hope — in death, life is not ended, life is only changed.
This time of year, as twinkling lights and beautiful decorations don buildings all around us, we can forget that the point of this season is the celebration of hope. The world can be a scary place. Fear might be a human reaction to a scary world, but fear is not a faithful response to the needs of the world. As a community, we are too strong and too capable to let fear be more than a momentary reaction.
We are constantly reminded of pain and heartbreak, but I want you to remember all the beauty in your life. When we focus on beauty, we become grateful for the gift of life itself. If we remain focused on gratitude as we continue through this holiday season, the power of hope will begin to transform our hearts and minds and actions. And when hope guides our lives, that force will be what slowly, but certainly, changes the world for good.
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