In the moment of receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, our soul receives many extraordinary gifts, among which are the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These are like little seeds planted in the garden of our soul. However, as in a garden, these seeds must be cultivated constantly. If not, the weeds can choke and suffocate the good plants.
One of the most attacked of all the virtues in the modern world is the virtue of hope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers us an excellent description of the theological virtue of hope in these words:
“Hope is 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. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. The Holy Spirit…He 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.” (CCC #1817)
With these inspired words, rich in encouragement, imbued with hope, and anointed by the Holy Spirit, let us meditate upon ten reasons why we should be confident in hope until the day of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1. The Lord is on Our Side
God is on our side as our ultimate Victor. Saint Paul reminds us with these encouraging words: “If God is with us then who can be against us.” The Psalmist reiterates this same concept: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” And the most famous of all of the Psalms consoles us with these words: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
2. Prayer Power: Our Source of Strength and Hope
When the Israelites battled against the Amalekites, Moses decided to climb to the top of the mountain overlooking the battle. Moses then elevated his arms towards heaven in prayer and intercession. At this sign, the Israelites took the advantage in the battle. However, when Moses’ arms started to droop due to weariness, the Amalekites then gained the upper hand. Seeing this, both Aaron and Hur had a plan: they would seat Moses on a rock, then with one on the right and the other on the left they would elevate the arms of Moses. This plan accomplished their goal, the Israelites triumphed and won their victory.
What does this great moment from the Old Testament mean for us? The tale of Moses shows that our hope and our strength is in a fervent and dynamic prayer life!
3. We Are Given the Strength to Get Back Up
Have you fallen down in your life? Sinned and felt like you were limping? Get back up and don’t stay down!
Only God is perfect and Scripture states that the just man falls seven times a day. The biggest problem is not so much our falling, but our resistance and unwillingness to rise after we fall. The newly canonized saint, St. Junipero Serra, a zealous and holy missionary who worked hard in the evangelization of California, expressed it clearly: “Siempre adelante, siempre adelante y nunca atras,” which in English means, “Always forward, always forward and never turn back.”
4. The Father Always Awaits His Prodigal Son
The Biblical passage that best expresses the above concept of forgiveness is found in Luke 15–the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or if you like, the Parable of the Merciful Father. Despite all our transgressions and mistakes, the loving arms of our heavenly Father are always wide open to receive us in all times, places and circumstances. Though we sinned, our Father is still eager to welcome us back as His children. Saint Paul reminds us with consoling words: “Where sin abounds, the mercy of God abounds all the more.”
5. The Saints Offer Us Prayers, Encouragement, and Friendship
A crushing loneliness characterizes the modern world. Big cities may have millions of people, but there are many individuals in such enormous cities who do not have even one friend, even one person to lend an ear to listen to them. In truth, we are not alone because we belong to a loving family that we call the Church.
The Church is composed of three levels:
- the Church Suffering — the souls in Purgatory
- the Church Militant — the living who are soldiers of Christ fighting with God’s help for our salvation
- the Church Triumphant — the victorious champions of Christ, whom we call the saints.
It is this last group that we might call “Our heavenly cheer-leaders”. Their prayers, their example, their love for God, and love for us is a constant reminder that we are not alone in our battle, but rather in the company of powerful friends of God. Just the thought of these spiritual champions should fill our hearts with hope for the future and hope for heaven!
6. Divine Mercy
Another brilliant ray of hope is the doctrine of Divine Mercy as taught by Saint Faustina Kowalska, who was the first to be canonized in the new millennium by Saint Pope John Paul II on Mercy Sunday 2000. The essential message of Divine Mercy is most consoling: Mercy is God’s primary and essential attribute.
How might we define mercy? It is God’s overflowing love which is pardoning the sinner. Even the greatest of sinners can become the greatest of saints upon one condition: that they trust in God’s infinite mercy. May we pray often: JESUS I TRUST IN YOU!
7. Mass and Holy Communion
God’s gifts and blessings shine down upon us like the midday sun. Of course, among all God’s blessings, the greatest is the gift of Jesus Himself in the Eucharist. He is really, truly, substantially present in the Mass in Holy Communion, in the most Holy Eucharist. What a gift!
Every day of our lives the “Sun of God” is elevated in the Mass in the hands of the priest and then Jesus, the Bread of Life, can descend into the depths of your heart upon receiving Holy Communion. This reality should fill you with abundant hope in this life and for eternal life. Jesus’ promise is filled with hope: “I am the Bread of life. Whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood will have everlasting life and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn 6) Daily Mass and daily Holy Communion is the source of our hope for eternal life!
8. We Have Good Samaritans on the Road of Life
Another powerful reason for hope is the reality of the Good Samaritans that God, in His infinite goodness and divine Providence, has sent to you. Rewind the film of your life in the spirit of prayer and awareness and you will notice the many times that God placed in your path some Good Samaritan who helped you in your need, when the skiff of your life was about to be submerged.
Our God is not an impersonal Deistic God who stays distant from us. Rather, He is actually engaged in our life, so much so that God actually became one of us in the Incarnation. He constantly sends reminders of His presence by the Good Samaritans that lift our load and take us to safety, healing and security. However, we should feel motivated, after having been the recipient of the love of many Good Samaritans, to be transformed into a Good Samaritan for others on the highway of life.
9. Our Hope in Heaven Looms Before Our Eyes
Of great importance in bolstering the virtue of hope in our hearts is the keen and constant awareness that our eternal destiny is heaven. Jesus promises us: “I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am you also may be. In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” Jesus has prepared a mansion for each of us in heaven.
Life is very short as the Psalmist reminds us: “Man’s life is like a flower of the field, that rises in the morning and withers and dies as the sun goes down.” In all our trials and tribulations we should strive to never forget about the reality of heaven, our eternal home. Saint Paul presents us with a mere glimpse: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Saint Augustine expresses the ephemeral character of human life: “Our life in comparison with eternity is a mere blink of the eye.” Life on earth is a puff of smoke; heaven is forever!
10. Mary: Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope
Saint Bernard penned the beautiful prayer-poem Ave Maris Stella, “Hail, Star of the Sea.” The mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard, presents our life as if it were a sailing ship in the midst of the tempestuous sea. The sea-captain is summoned to lift his eyes on high to the star shining in the dark sky. That shining star will lead the captain, sailors, and the ship safely ashore. In the midst of the tempests of life, we are called to raise our eyes to another star in the sea–Stella Maris–that is to say “Our Lady, Star of the Sea.”
It is through her powerful presence and intercession that we will all arrive home safely, at the port of salvation, which is heaven. Therefore, friends of Jesus and Mary, let us cling to the virtue of hope. God is on our side, life is short, eternal life is forever and heaven is our everlasting home.
Let us beg Our Lady for hope: “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope.”