Father Eric J. Banecker

A movie came out a few years ago called “The Fault in Our Stars.” Admittedly, I didn’t see the movie. People who did had mixed reviews. At any rate, this is not about the movie, but about the title.

It’s a line from Shakespeare’s famous play “Julius Caesar.” Brutus and Cassius are discussing their would-be conspiracy to eliminate Caesar, who by accepting extraordinary titles and honors had, in their minds, become a threat to the Roman Republic. The ambitious Cassius has no qualms about getting rid of Caesar. But Brutus, an intimate friend of Caesar as well as a noble and fair-minded man of principle, needs much more convincing.

And so Cassius makes his plea to the only man in Rome who can legitimate their conspiracy: “the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are but men.”

In the context of late-republican Rome and its astrological practices, this is an unheard-of perspective: that we should not try to read the horoscopes and tea-leaves for the right signal to act. Instead, as moral agents endowed with reason, we are the ones who must read the signs of the times and act in the light of truth.

Many, many people find themselves discontent with their situations in life. Some who are poor would rather be rich. Yet many rich people find such a life just a new kind of poverty. Many are caught in relationships that don’t satisfy. Others have jobs that — for one reason or another — they are stuck in.

To all of us — and this is all of us from time to time — we must know that the fault lies not in our stars. No matter what our state and situation in life, we always have the opportunity to live well, because we can hold on to hope.

Hope is not a political slogan, but a virtue which directs our gaze to our final end, who is Jesus Christ. He is our one true hope, the anchor upon which we can stake the claim of our lives. And if we trust in him, then no matter how different the external situation around us, our interior life — the one that truly matters — can remain peaceful and strong as the Lord desires for us.

These are days of darkness and chill in our part of the world. Seasonal depression can easily kick in, and the weight of the world’s problems — including in the little worlds of our families and communities — can seem intractable and overwhelming.

Yet it is precisely in these moments that we must look to Christ. In him, all the problems of the world have their answer. On the cross, he showed the depth of his solidarity with us, and in his rising again, he gave us our definitive reason for hope.

So then, we have no need to curse the stars under which we are born or the situation in which we find ourselves. That doesn’t do us any good anyway. Instead, this Advent, we can proclaim our faith in Christ anew, Christ who took flesh and dwelt among us, who gives himself to us in the sacraments of his church.

Those who place their ultimate hope in something else end up replacing the world’s problems with new, often worse calamities. That’s what Brutus and Cassius discovered.

Instead, our hope must be firmly rooted in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, grounded in the love which, as Dante famously wrote, “moves the sun and the stars.”

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Father Eric J. Banecker is parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish, Broomall.