In Cassandra Speaks, Elizabeth Lesser tells us about Pandora. You might be familiar with the Greek myth: The gods punished men by giving them a woman (Pandora) and a jar filled with human suffering. Because Pandora was prone to evil, she opened the jar and released every kind of suffering and misery onto humanity. All that’s left— clinging to the jar—is hope.
Lesser reveals this version wasn’t the only version of Pandora’s story. Some earlier versions say it wasn’t Pandora who released suffering, but it was she who coaxed hope to remain. When I hold the two endings in my hands—one with a woman prone to evil, and one with a woman who can be trusted to keep hope alive—it’s the trustworthy woman who rings true in my soul.
The woman keeping hope alive is easy for me to picture, because I know her.
I can picture Pandora stumbling to the open jar, anguished at what’s been let loose. I can see her peering through streaming tears into the jar’s empty womb. I can see her tears stop and her eyes light up as she sees hope for the first time! I can see her lifting hope gently into her arms, speaking kindly to it, nurturing it till it grows. I can see Pandora teaching her daughters to keep hope alive, even when everything around them looks bleak.
I can see their eyes light up and their hearts begin beating again!
I can picture Mary Magdalene, who supported Jesus’s ministry in Galilee and traveled with him after he miraculously healed her, restoring her right mind. I can see her and the other women at a tomb. Their eyes are burning with confusion and grief; they are looking for their dead savior’s body. I can see them meeting the angel (in some Gospel accounts) or Jesus himself (in other Gospel accounts)! I can see their eyes light up and their hearts begin beating again! I can see them running with their new, wild hope to tell the others, keeping it alive to each other and themselves in each retelling: reminding each other of their right minds, their right memories!
I can see them running with their new, wild hope to tell the others . . .
I see women, today, keeping hope alive. I can watch Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester praying fervently and powerfully for this nation during the coup attempt on January 6. I can hear about Verlene Warnock, whose hands picked cotton, kept hope alive, and at 82 years “picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.”
I picture my own grandmother, whose hands shucked corn and made tortillas and fed eleven children. There was nobody to listen to her voice and to ask what she thought, but she kept hope alive and passed it down to me. And here I am, in my own kitchen, with my own children, with all the words she never got to say and then some.
Keeping hope alive isn’t easy or straightforward. In Luke’s account of Jesus’s crucifixion, the doctor-disciple deliberately mentions Galilee three times. Galilee was the place Jesus did most of his ministry. He preached most of his sermons and performed most of his recorded miracles there. It was the women from Galilee who ministered to Jesus and followed him up to Jerusalem, and who were with him at his torturous death, and who stood watch over his body while it was laid in the tomb.
In pointing to Galilee so often, I think Luke is telling us: Remember! Remember Jesus’s goodness in Galilee! Remember Jesus’s miracles! Remember your right mind and your worth! Remember! I think that’s how we, too, can keep on keeping hope alive. Remember what Jesus has done for us! Remember how he gave us our right minds and hears us!
Remember! Remember! Remember!
My daughter, recently, drew a picture in response to a prompt about Jesus loving her. She drew hash marks over and over again on the page.
“There’s a hash mark for each thing Jesus has told us and wants us to remember,” she told me.
“What things has he told us?” I asked her.
“He’s told us he loves us, he’s with us, and he’s coming again.”