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As we know and can see all around us, the year and seasons are marching on at what seems an alarming rate. Just about 10 days ago we went out for the day to get a bit of air, exercise and a change of scenery. We headed for the coast, parked up near to the beach and set off for a longish walk along the sea front, with the view to taking a circular route via the town back to the car. It was a bit breezy, some cloud in the sky, but we hoped it wouldn’t rain!
So I guess it was no surprise that about an hour into our walk, and still about 30 minutes from getting back to the car, the sky darkened over and the heavens literally opened! I’m not sure that wet is a good enough description of us when we finally got back to the sanctuary of the car! We had hoped it would stay dry, but you don’t always get what you hope for!
As usual this got me thinking. ‘Hope’, tends to suggest that we aren’t sure what is going to happen, but we want a certain outcome from whatever it is that we are thinking about or involved in. We can hope that our favourite team will win, we can hope that our numbers come up on the lottery, we can hope that our favourite film is on at Christmas. All things that are completely out of our control.
There are also times when we can hope for an outcome, where we can have an influence. If we work and revise for exams it is reasonable to hope for a good result, if we leave in good time to make a journey we can reasonably hope to arrive in good time, if we follow a cooking recipe, we can reasonably hope that the dish turns out like the picture in the book.
Or, we could look at the weather forecast and wear suitable clothing in case rain is predicted!
But, can we hope for anything with any complete certainty? It might be possible to argue that if we have complete certainty, then we don’t need to hope. So is there anything that has complete certainty – well, if I go out in the rain, I will get wet!, if I tread on a lego brick in bare feet, it will hurt, or, if I turn my key in my door lock, it will open! However, those aren’t things that we have to hope will happen.
So, why is it that “hope” is often associated with our faith?
The hope we associate with faith differs a bit from the descriptions above. It differs because we believe that the hope we have in the promises of Christ are not just a hope, but they are in fact a complete certainty. This is because we understand that what Christ has revealed to us for the future is a freely given gift from Him to us. A gift that is real, but we hold it as a hope because we can’t fully comprehend the reality of it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as:
“Hope is the power by which we firmly and constantly long for what we were placed on earth to do: to praise God and to serve Him; and for our true happiness, which is finding our fulfilment in God; and for our final home: in God.” (CCC 1817-1821)
In other words we don’t have to wonder if, we just have to believe, when.
If we can take this approach, how ever impossible, irrational or illogical it might seem to others, then we know that our hope isn’t based on chance, but something so much more. Based on the promise of God, given to us as a gift so that we might live out our lives with this one goal (hope) in mind.
Our certainty is in living out our faith – loving God and our neighbour are the building blocks to this way of life. But it is interesting to also note that when we live this kind of life, we also enable others to have hope. This may be the faith understanding of hope, or it may also be the human construct of hope, a hope for a better life, either way it is Christ at work, through us guided by the Holy Spirit that brings hope to our world.
Let us then reflect on how we can bring hope, in it’s many forms, to our world through our words and example. Christ alive and the Hope of all Christians.
Deacon Ian Black