Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
This week the scripture readings lead us to “Hope”. What is Hope? It is one of the Theological virtues; Faith, hope and love. Hope is the attitude that has to carry all of us through life. We either live a life of hope or we live lives that are hopeless that is we live lives of despair. Suffering, pain, and loss are a part of every human life. We experience minor setbacks and major ones. Some of us experience catastrophic events in which all hope appears extinguished. Consider for example, those who suffered in concentration camps: physically abused, daily threatened by murderous death, enduring the loss of all property and privacy, and mourning the extinction of so many friends and relatives. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl pointed out that people in these horrible circumstances nevertheless reacted in radically different ways. Some killed themselves; others praised God even as they walked into certain death. As Frankl remarked, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how” (Man’s Search for Meaning, 121). Man needs hope to live.
In his second encyclical letter, Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the indispensability of hope for those who encounter suffering of whatever depth: “[T]he present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” (Spe Salvi 1). “Hope” is a word often on our lips. I hope this happens in the future. I hope this or that situation turns out well. I hope my friend feels better soon. We have many hopes of greater or lesser importance. Pope Benedict is concerned with hopes of all different kinds, but he focuses particular attention on the greatest hope that we can have, the hope of eternal happiness forever. All of our small hopes are geared to a bigger hope, the hope of happiness, and most of all the hope of perfect happiness.
Hope is indeed always linked to faith, since one cannot have the faith (at least a living faith) without also having both love and hope. Infused with hope, human beings can endure even the worst of circumstances. Even though hope primarily focuses on the perfect happiness of heaven attained through the help of God, we also have earthly hopes that are related to our great hope of salvation. The bible teaches over and over again, as we heard in the first reading, that we create our own unhappiness by refusing to trust- to have faith in what God has spoken to us. The most powerful lines in today’s Gospel for me are “do not be afraid, just have faith” The phrase, “Do not be afraid,” appears in the Bible 366 times. What do we do in times of troubles and distress? A good example we see in the Book of 2 Kings, chapter 19 is the story of King Hezekiah. King Hezekiah received a letter from Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, threatening the total destruction of Judah if Hezekiah did not unconditionally surrender. Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then he went up to the temple of the Lord, and spreading it out before Him, he prayed in the Lord’s presence. Do you know what happened next? Then Isaiah, sent this message to Hezekiah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, in answer to your prayer for help against Sennacherib, king of Assyria: “…. I will shield and save this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.” Next we read, “That night the angel of the LORD went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp, and went back home to Nineveh.”
Many of us have also received letters, faxes, e-mail, text messages, or memos containing devastating news. Some have received letters from attorneys in which their spouses have announced that they are suing for divorce. Many have received forms from their doctors in which the serious risks from operations and therapy are listed. Others have received “Dear John letters,” notices that they have been fired from their jobs, “hate mail” from family members, indictments, subpoenas, threats, or bills. When you get your “poison-pen letters,” do what King Hezekiah did. Take your letters “to the temple of the Lord”, that is, to church. Let the Eucharistic Jesus “open your mail.” Don’t become unforgiving and bitter. Have Hope. Don’t be depressed or fall into despair. Have faith. Don’t take vengeance or give in to fear. Spread your letter and your life out before the Lord. “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you”. Pray in the Lord’s presence. Let the Lord answer your mail. Accept Him as the Lord of your letters and your life. For we are people of hope and our hope is in God almighty who has power to turn everything in favor of his faithful.
God Bless You,