Hope. It’s a word we throw about a lot. I hope the weather is better tomorrow because I don’t like slipping on the ice, or I hope that we can finally get back together again like we used to. Perhaps you are hoping your ticket number is chosen in the big lottery, or you’re hoping that lady friend you like will also like you too (only if you’re single). But we Christians have a much more involved meaning to the word “Hope”. We have a hope that is not just wishful thinking, like winning a lottery. We have a sure hope in Salvation through Christ. Our Hope is not random wishing, which is butting up against superstition; but that’s another essay. Our Hope is also a sure thing. Christ promised that we will be with him in Paradise LK 23:43.
So, what is this Hope? How can it help us now? I mean, if all this is the Hope that eventually, I’ll get to heaven, how is that going to affect me today, years before I die (I hope). Well, we humans are actually pretty oriented people. Some of us will set a goal of getting rich and spend their lives striving for that goal. Some of us will strive for power, others may strive for less wholesome things but no matter, in the end, it will all come to nothing. Remember Jesus’ parables, particularly, of the rich man, who tore down his barns to build bigger ones, only to find that his life was about to end LK 12:16-21.
When I was a teenager, I had largely fallen away from the Church for a while. Out on my own for the first time, living alone, I struggled to know who I was and what Christ was all about. I knew He was real. I was convinced of that, but I had not really figured out how that affected my life. I didn’t see his promise of salvation as something that affected my life in the present moment. At one point, in despair, I had even considered ending my life. Just a bit faster, I reasoned, I could just push the gas pedal down a bit more and I would not make that next corner coming up. No one would know I had done it on purpose. I had just been taken in by a girl I had been interested in. She accepted my ticket to a big dance/drinking spree put on by one of the student groups on campus and when we got in the door, she said goodbye and left to find her friends. I was just the patsy whose money she happily used to get into the couples-only event. My life was not going well. As I approached the curve, I suddenly saw my mother leaning over my casket in tears. I couldn’t do that to her. I backed off and made the curve, albeit with my tires complaining loudly at the load. I finished my drive back to my room and resumed my “hopeless life”, feeling maybe even more trapped because I knew I couldn’t hurt Mom.
I began to see some light though in the Lord. I tried several bible groups and other churches but each one reached the point, where they tried to insist that I needed to recant my Catholicism and join their particular Church in order to be saved. There were even some ex-Catholics in some of those groups trying to convince me it was the only way. My Mom saved me again. I could not believe that she was going to Hell (as these people were trying to tell me) and she and all my extended family was Catholic. I could not imagine they were all going to hell either. I couldn’t articulate my objection to them. I just didn’t know what to say but I was sure they were wrong. Christ was in the Catholic Church, I was sure of it. Clearly, though, I was missing something about being Catholic that I needed to find.
It turned it out it was Christ himself I was missing. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light” Jn14:6 took on new meaning. Jesus was not just telling me that He could bring me to Heaven, He was telling me he would do it. I realized that his promise was a guarantee. I was saved! I know, I know. That’s not a “Catholic” phrase. We don’t run around saying we’re saved, or we’re born again. Yet, that is exactly what we are. We are saved, we are born again in baptism and Through Christ, we have a sure hope in salvation 1 John 3:2–3. My goal now is my true hope in salvation. My goal is to reach that final hope, that final destination of eternity with God in Heaven. No matter what twists and turns my life here on earth brings, my hope is not in this world. My hope is in Heaven, and nothing can take that away from me.
Brothers, as we journey in this new Season of Lent for the next few weeks, we too can share in that hope. We need to rid ourselves of all the things of the world that are keeping us back, that are preventing us from seeing the Hope that is Christ. Those habits that prevent us from spending time with the Lord, and from each other. Those earthly goals and pleasures that only serve to use up our time and resources. Let’s instead all turn our thoughts, efforts and goals towards building up our treasures in Heaven, Mt 6:19-21. I hope that you all will be able to find a new goal, a new Hope in Christ and not focus on the Hopes of this world, which will rust and decay. Instead, let’s build ourselves a new habit of Hope in Christ.
PS: For an excellent book on Hope, I suggest reading “Beautiful Hope”, by Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic. The book is free, you only need pay for shipping. They also have an excellent series called “Best Lent Ever”. It’s a series of short video messages daily that you can listen to. Sign up to receive a link to the daily message now from dynamiccatholic.com. They’re also free.
May God Bless you all with Beautiful Hope.