Christian Hope

The first reading for todays’ Mass is from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul starts by telling us that “the sufferiengs of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us.” He then talks about hope.

Hope is one of the important gifts that we, as Christians, bring to the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls hope “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Hope is different from optimism. It is not the mundane attitude that things will turn out just fine. Timothy Radcliffe, in a wonderful book I’ve mentioned before called What is the Point of Being Christian, says that hope is not “a determined jollity, a resolution to look on the bright side. It is not optimistically insisting that the glass if half full rather than half empty, or any of the other empty platitudes with which we may try to shield ourselves from dread and hollowness.”

We all know that empty platitudes don’t work. It does no good to tell someone who has just lost a child, or who is suffering from a debilitating physical or mental illness, or how has just lost their livelihood and has no means of supporting a family, to buck up, look on the bright side, it could be worse. That is not Christian hope.

Instead, in the words of playwright and former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel, “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Hope is trust. It is our trust that in Christ, somehow, in ways we can’t anticipate or even imagine, that there will be triumph. That we will, in Paul’s words, “share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” It is confidence, not in human nature, but in God.

An important part of our mission as Christians is to be a beacon of hope in the world. To be people of hope and to convey that hope to the world.