Second in a series
IN PREPARING this series of columns on hope, I recalled a poem that I like very much. I think I first read it when I was a student in the seminary. Entitled “Hope,” it was written by Charles Péguy.
In the poem, Péguy imagines God speaking. The opening lines are the following:
“I Am, says God, Master of the Three
Faith is a faithful wife.
Charity is an ardent mother.
But hope is a tiny girl.
I am, says God, the Master of Virtues.
Faith is she who remains steadfast
during centuries and centuries.
Charity is she who gives herself
during centuries and centuries.
But my little hope is she
Who rises every morning.”
I love that image of hope rising every morning. When people are depressed and feeling as though there is nothing to hope for, getting out of bed may require a major effort. To someone who is deeply depressed it may be pointless to say something like “Cheer up!” If the person, who is depressed could “cheer up,” he or she would not need us to say “Cheer up!”
During this season of Advent, I have been thinking about the virtue of hope in relation to the Eucharist. Celebrating a Eucharist is from start to finish an act of hope.
When people attend a Eucharist with the intention of celebrating the Eucharist as the people of God, their very presence is a sign of hope. When a Catholic attends a Eucharist, he or she rightly hopes that something marvelous will take place, that the action in which they will be participating may be the most important action of the week.
If we can transcend the temptation of routine and take a deep look at the meaning and mystery of a Eucharist, we find a meaning and a mystery that is almost incredible. The Risen Christ is going to ritually be made present under the appearance of bread and wine offering Himself to the Father.
A ‘Divine Yes’
Catholics also hope that the prayers they offer at a Eucharist will be heard and answered by their heavenly Father. Both the Prayers of the Faithful offered and the prayers that are part of every Eucharistic celebration are offered in hope. We hope that even when we pray for people whom we do not know, the prayers will make a difference in the lives of those people.
No prayer goes unheard, no prayer goes unanswered, no prayer is not answered by a “divine yes.” God never says no to us if what we are asking is good for us or for others.
When leaving a Eucharistic celebration, we may feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, not primarily because we have accomplished something wonderful, but rather because we have had an extraordinary experience of God’s love for us.
Through the celebration of the Eucharist we may have been reminded of what is most important in our lives. Perhaps the celebration has helped us deepen our commitment.
While reflecting on hope during this Advent season, without consciously planning to read it, I came upon a section of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, a section that can strengthen our hope. Paul writes the following:
“For in hope were we saved. But hope that is seen is not hope. For how can a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.
“But in like manner the Spirit also helps our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself pleads for us with unutterable groaning. And he who searches the hearts knows what the Spirit desires, that he pleads for the saints according to God.
“Now we know that for those who love God all things work together unto good, …”
Most Profound Truth
When we have difficulty trusting in God’s love for us, when we feel completely alone and perhaps even feel that we are unloved, we should never surrender to that feeling. What we are feeling is not the most profound truth about us. The most profound truth about us is that God loves us so much that we cannot even imagine or conceive how great that love is. Whatever image or idea we have about how much God loves us, we can always add, “It is more than that!”
When St. Paul tells us that for those who love God all things work together unto good, he is not saying that we won’t have problems or even suffering, but he is assuring us that God’s love surrounds us and that God’s love for us will see us through any problem or any suffering.
Advent is a wonderful season. It can keep before our minds what is most important about our lives and about our faith. Advent can strengthen our hope.
Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and author of “Pope Francis’ Profound Personalism and Poverty” (Resurrection Press).