Offers food for thought
Introduction to the Easter Series
We live in troubled times. Events and cultural shifts in our day, are causing great distress in people around the world. There is a growing ‘despair’ eroding even the hope of Christians. If we forget the ages of past human history and become focused on the contents of the 24-hour news cycle, we might wonder if this is truly, ‘the end of humanity’. Rest assured, although we live in a time of enormous cultural shifts as regards reason, morality, faith, truth and the nature of the human person… this is not the worst time in history and God is neither surprised nor absent.
Our reason for hope is never overcome, and our convictions regarding the victory of Christ, over spiritual death - eternal separation from God, remain firmly established. God is God of past, present and future. “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” Isaiah 40:31 Why? Because God said ‘I will be with you’. How? Through his Son Jesus who is called Emmanuel ‘God with us’. “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3
Where does our hope come from?
St. Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3 Hope springs from that new birth which comes through Jesus' resurrection and who through the Holy Spirit, “poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." Titus 3:6-7.
God promised eternal life and cannot lie. John 5:24 , 1 John 2:24-26, Titus 1:2 The hope of eternal life is assured by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Acts 17:31 This hope impels us to unceasingly do the work of the Lord. 1 Cor. 15:50-58 This hope rests on the immutable nature of God. God keeps us in the hope that does not disappoint. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Rom 5:1-11
Therefore, we hope in the glory of heaven as promised by God, as long as we remain those who love him and do his will. Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 7:21.
What is this living hope?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3-9
Christian hope is not a desire for some future thing which we are uncertain of attaining. It is full assurance or absolute confidence that God only makes promises that God intends to keep. As St. Paul said, “We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.” Hebrews 6:11-12 Matthew 10:22 We are to intensely desire and be fully confident that Jesus Christ is coming again with grace for his people. This desire is to remain undiminished in the life of a disciple of Christ. St Peter also reminds us that our continued possession of a confident and certain hope, is predicated on living lives of increased holiness. That we are to “live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy,” 1 Peter 1:13-16
Hope protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." 1 Thess 5:8 Living hope is firm, and fruitful. It changes the way we see and interact in the world. “It is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in the promises of the Father and authoritatively repeated and affirmed by the Son and sustained in us with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 1817
Confidence in our hope…
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23 But, we are a skeptical crew and so words by themselves aren’t enough. It’s important to trust the source, the one speaking, the one making the promises and although ‘believing without seeing’ is part of the Christian life, evidence is also important. We have this assurance, first and foremost in the testimony of the saints in the Word of God and from the cloud of witnesses through the ages. Confident hope, fueled by grace and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, is made firm through hearing ‘the Good News’ of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Word of God is “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, Wis 18:15–16; Is 49:2; Eph 6:17; Rev 1:16; 2:12.
The testimony that Jesus rose from the dead is a declaration that Jesus Christ is alive, as the prophets foretold and the promises of God assured. The resurrection of Jesus certifies our hope. As St. Paul says “But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19ff
Nourishing our Hope…
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the prayer to Our Father which was taught to us by Christ. It is the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire. We can also look to St. Augustine as a partial source of this teaching, who taught in his little Catechism called the ‘Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love’; that everything that pertains to hope is embraced in the Lord’s Prayer.
Briefly, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ in the Gospel according to Matthew has seven petitions. Three of them ask for eternal blessings, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven,” and four ask for temporal blessings which are the necessary antecedents to the attainment of the eternal. “Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.”
The Gospel of Luke, although virtually the same as that in Matthew, only has five petitions, but they help us to see how the seven in Matthew are to be understood. God's name is hallowed in the spirit; and God's kingdom shall come in the resurrection of the body. Luke considers the third petition as a sort of repetition of the first two, and therefore omits it. “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” Then he adds three others, folding the fourth one (in Matthew) into his third, because it is implied, so that every man is to understand that he is delivered from evil in the very fact of his not being led into temptation. “Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”
Giving ‘reason’ for our hope…
“Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,” 1 Peter 3:15 Catholics today can understand this in the sense of ‘apologetics’. We need to be prepared to defend / explain ‘give reason’, for what we believe, teach, and practice. The letter of Peter goes on to say, “but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” 1 Peter 3:16-22
Our hope leads to love…
Our conduct conforms to our passions or desires. Formerly we were ignorant, not knowing the glory of God and the hope he offers through Christ, and we set our ‘hopes’ on things of the world. But now we are being transformed with passions and desires in union with the will of God.
“Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For: ““Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.”” 1 Peter 3:8-12
God wills that in loving him, we would love our neighbors. Hope is the power for holy love. A person who hopes intensely in Jesus Christ, who longs to see him and be with him, will inevitably start to think and feel and act like Jesus. "Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure" 1 John 3:3
“Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy.” 1 Peter 1:13–15
There is only one basic reason why we disobey the commands of Jesus: it’s because we don’t really believe that he loves us, we don’t hope fully in God's promise. Therefore, our desire to listen, to be obedient is diminished and we increasingly believe that what we do, doesn’t matter. But we do matter, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.