Hoping Against Hope

Because yesterday was the Third Sunday of Lent, the Catholic Church today celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph (usually celebrated on March 19).  As a result, today’s Mass readings include an additional reading, a passage from the book of Romans about the faith and hope of Abraham.

Paul gives us a beautiful description of the hope of an old man: Abraham “believed, hoping against hope,” that God would fulfill his promise to make him “the father of many nations.”  I love that phrase: hoping against hope.

It was an absolutely crazy promise to have trust in: Abraham was over 100 years old and Sarah’s womb is was “dead” (in the words of the Hebrew Scriptures). How in the world could Abraham become the father of many nations?  How could Abraham believe in God’s promise?

The short and simple answer is that his prior experience with God had given him faith.  In other words, you can only dare to hope against hope if you can see where God has already been in your life.

And that is what we need to do, to take time looking back over our lives and seeing where God has been, where God has operated.  I encourage looking back because in doing so we are likely to see evidence of God’s presence where we may not have noticed it at the time.

Seeing where God has been, appropriating our prior experience of God, gives us the hope of Abraham.  And that matters not only for each of us individually, but for all those with whom we come in contact. Just as Abraham’s hope in God is something we can look at and draw strength from, your own hope is a source of strength for your families and others who come in contact with you.