IMAGES OF HOPE
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
Be in your prayer space, follow the usual steps and settle into silence.
Sit still…..Relax…….Do not rush………
Take a couple of gentle, slow and deep breaths…becoming aware of your breath going in and out… stay focused on this breath of life, the gift of God……
Settle into silence, into peacefulness, into profound silence, into pure joy. Keep listening in such quietness and serenity.
Come to that place, that space within, that place of deep silence – Solitude…to just being here and now without having to accomplish something.
Now I invite you to consecrate your day and all that come with it…in your own way, in humble, simple, may be even inadequate words…Let the Holy Spirit pray in you.
Prayerfully Read and Reflect……
One of the most joyful traditions of all Christian communities has been celebrating the season of Advent every year. Advent is a time of waiting, of eager longing for the Messiah, for the one who can heal us, save us and make us whole. In waiting, we must await God coming at His time, in His season, in His way. In waiting, we may often wait alone, others may leave, may give up, may not care, may be busy about many things. But we must wait in silence, in solitude, in prayer. We must wait empty, open, poor, hungry, thirsty, longing…….We must make space for the Messiah, because HE COMES.
Isaiah had a beautiful vision of the Lord’s house being established as the highest of all mountains, raised above all hills, to which all nations would came (Isaiah 2:1-5 – the first reading of the first Sunday of Advent 2013). On this mountain, he says, a sense of brotherhood, fellowship, harmony and peace would come. The Prophet announced that all instruments of destruction would be turned into creative, life-giving instruments, “sword into plowshares…..spears into pruning hooks……..” From this vision came the call of Isaiah to “walk in the light of the Lord”.
Be people of hope! Work for peace and harmony! Walk in the light of the Lord!
The opening message of Jesus was: “Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand!” This is the good news…this is the Gospel….the presence of the reign of God, the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ of Christian life. We do not know how or when all things will be transformed.
On our earth the Kingdom of God is already present in mystery: it is and it is not yet. It is the beyond that is within! One who is transformed by the Gospel values will come to know the “beyond that is within”. This is our hope.
As deformed by sin, violence and war, the shape of this world will pass away. We are offered the hope that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice and peace meet, embrace and abide……… and the blessedness that comes from this transformed world will surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.
Our hope is not a passive waiting for things to happen. It calls forth continual conversion if we are to hasten our journey into the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. The ‘kingdom of heaven’ and ‘God’s reign’ reveal the dynamic relationship we have with God, which enables us to accomplish what God wills.
To be part of that reign means to enter into a process of continually experiencing conversion…..John the Baptist and Jesus called for “repentance” and that is what conversion is……an ongoing, life-long conversion!
A necessary and integral part of this continual conversion for the disciple of Jesus, in search of a more just and non-violent world, is the conversion from discouragement and the temptation to escape the suffering of the world to an enduring commitment based on hope. The temptation we often face is to give up the struggle totally, to stop reading the newspaper, to withdraw into a privatized spirituality.
This is not the spirituality of the Gospel of Jesus. The Beatitudes, which flow from the heart of the Gospel of Jesus, lead us to ‘creative insecurity’ or ‘dynamic insecurity’. If you are secure, you don’t need grace….you don’t need prayer…. you don’t need brothers and sisters… you don’t need the power of God. If the reign of God is to be ours, we must have hope.
Our hope is rooted in the unconditional love of God for each human being. God never gives up on anyone. God’s love is everlasting…..steadfast…..unconditional. Hope in the Old Testament is centered on people like Abraham and Sarah. The Old Testament breathes an atmosphere of hope throughout — dynamic expectation, not a passive desire or wish. Even Israel’s unfaithfulness did not hinder hope. The motive of hope is the past deeds of Yahweh, which gives confidence in God’s power to fulfill his promises.
In the New Testament, Jesus announces the arrival of the Kingdom, the reign of God, in the world. It is a future near at hand…..a future present in the present!!! The believer lives in hope. The concept of hope is most fully developed by St Paul, especially in his letter to the Romans. We boast of our hope for the glory of God. (See chapter 5) In hope we were saved. But hope is not hope if its object is seen; how is it possible for one to hope for what he sees? Hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance. Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer. (See Ch. 8 & 12)
Paul does not think that hope is easily attained; it is the fruit of proved virtue which in turn is produced through patient suffering.
Jesus’ resurrection is our most radical sign of hope. It means that the power of sin and death has been overcome (1 Corinthians 15) and that we share in the freedom of the resurrection. We share in it as individuals and as a people.
Believing in the resurrection means making a commitment to live in hope despite the injustices that we are aware of, despite the acts of violence that we read about or, perhaps, have experienced.
There are many signs of hope in the Church: the extraordinary growth in the number of resource organizations for justice and peace; justice and peace commissions, centers and institutes, study programs and volunteer groups that have been developed in many Churches; the growing number of people who are dedicating some of their time to work among those who are materially poor; the number of religious orders that are taking seriously a preferential option for the poor……..
There are many signs of hope in myself: the good that I am already doing, moments of integrity and self-sacrifice; conversion experiences I have been open to and undergone; the past deeds of God in my own life that have enabled me to do more than I ever imagined possible; memories of God lighting my way with periodic glimpses of his presence even in the desert times of my life……..
There are many signs of hope in those around me, my family, Church community members, friends, colleagues: their faith and their persevering commitment to justice and peace despite the obstacles they encounter……….
There are many signs of hope in the world: stories of heroic men and women in one’s own country and elsewhere, people who embody the Beatitudes; the great outpouring of concern for the starving people all over the world……… people, trucks, planes and helicopters from various countries work together to organize food drops to isolated villages; liberation movements of oppressed peoples; the compassionate reaction of college students and many others to the plight of African peoples in South Africa to end apartheid. There are many stories of hope…… we need to look for them and be encouraged by them, in newspapers and magazines and on television………
So, look within and around…….see signs of hope, capture images of hope……..keep them in your heart…….cherish them……let them bless you and challenge you to be men and women of hope…
We need to learn to rejoice in small victories and to concentrate on the good already being done rather than continually lament the absences. This disposition leads us to hope and enables us to work for further change with perseverance.
Finally, it is important to realize how you are a sign of hope for others: by your faith lived out in a commitment to compassion and peace, by your joyful love and by your persevering dedication, to be a person of the Beatitudes in an ongoing, continual process of conversion, transformation………..
Hope is not an idea, not a concept or a doctrine. It is a dynamic, moving force in life.
Being a dynamic force, hope is both a sign of power and a sign of powerlessness. So much so, Hope is our power in our powerlessness.
Hope speaks strange language: “This too shall pass”; “One day at a time”; “you are never alone”; “Someone else has it worse”; “There is life in death”; “Never give up”; “Failure is not the end”; “Hang-in-there”; “Don’t worry”; “Try again”; “Take another approach”; “Miracles do happen”; “I believe in angels”; the sun will rise tomorrow”……………
We are, in the most profound sense, creatures of hope. Real hope is not crushed by disappointment. Hope is often born in difficulties.
“As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is a mere flattery or platitude; it is when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength at all. Like all the Christian virtues, it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable”. (G.K.Chesterton)
A person’s “hopes” are capable of obscuring his one HOPE. When his small hopes fail to materialize one by one, he forgets what is important and despair sets in. We easily attach ourselves to trivial hopes (e.g. hope, the weather is good). All these (trivial) hopes should be subservient to the one fundamental hope – that our life will one day be fulfilled.
Ultimate hope transcends all our other hopes. It transcends our earthly life. This hope has no expiry date. This ultimate hope breaks down all our illusions and helps us embrace with our whole being what is real and true and good and wise and redeeming and whole and authentic and ETERNAL.
HOPE is at the heart of Christian message – not panic, not despair, not fear, not anger, not discouragement, – BUT HOPE.
Be men and women of Hope!
Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs