Wis 6:12-16; 1Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13
The Christians in Thessalonica were going through a difficult and trying time. They were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. They were being pressured to embrace the paganism of their neighbors. They were also grieving the loss of their loved ones who had died before the return of Jesus.
What was the summary of St. Paul’s message to them? He did not call them to dialogue with the culture or to have endless listening sessions. He simply told them not to lose the hope that Christ won for them. They are not to emulate the hopelessness of the non-Christians and forsake their own hope, “Do not grieve like the rest who have no hope.”
Christian hope is from the death and resurrection of Jesus from the grave, “For if we believe that Christ died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”(1Thes 4:13-14) Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose from the grave to win this hope for us. We are to hold on to this hope at all costs because it is through this hope that we share in Jesus’ final victory over all evil, suffering, and even death itself.
In as much as nothing in this world gives us true hope, this world also should not take away our hope. In short, we are not to surrender our God-given hope for anything that we experience in this world.
So, how alive is our hope today? Are we really maintaining our hope today? There are five signs that our hope is truly alive.
If our hope is alive, we will have a strong and persistent desire for heavenly life with God. We will not live our lives only for the present moment with its fleeting pleasures and successes. We will not be so focused on temporal issues like the environment that we forget the salvation of our immortal souls. We will face the trials of life with patience knowing that the “sufferings of the present time are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us.”(Rom 8:18) We will not be caught in the current of consumerism but will invest our treasures in becoming “rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:21). We will renounce the hedonistic mindset of our times and exercise self-control so that we can “run to win the race” (1Cor 9:24).
If our hope is alive, we will have unshakable trust that God will give us all the graces that we need to be faithful to Him now in all our commitments. We cannot be faithful to our commitments by our own strengths and resolutions alone. We respond to the high calling of Jesus to be holy by trusting in the graces that He will surely provide for us. We will not compromise in this calling to holiness in our vocations. We will not join those who whine and complain that God’s commandments and His call to holiness are impossible to attain. We will not give up in the battle against sin. We trust in God because we know that He cannot call us to do something that His grace cannot accomplish in us, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”(Phil 2:13)
If our hope is alive, we will pray without ceasing. We sometimes claim that we do not pray because we do not have the time to prayer, or we find prayer boring or useless. But the bottom line is that we do not pray because our hope is dead. Our hunger for God has waned and we don’t really desire to be faithful to Him in our daily life. We do not have the desire to grow in holiness and in our love for God and neighbor. A vibrant prayer life is a sign of a strong hope.
If our hope is alive, we will be people of inner joy. The hope of eternal life and the certainty that God will give us all the graces that we need to attain it fills us with a hope that persists even in the trials of life. Jesus assures us of this joyful hope from communion with Him, “My joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.”(Jn 15:11) A life without true inner joy is a life that is devoid of all Christian hope.
If our hope is alive, we will be diligent in our duties of our state of life and in our Christian commitments. An immature hope is evident in negligence in our duties and daily commitments. We are lazy, procrastinate, and are careless when we lose our hope. We have no energy for a fervent Christian life. We shirk the duties of evangelization and make many excuses not to fulfill these duties of our state of life. Such negligence of duties is the climax of a dead hope.
Jesus warned us against such negligence in the parable of the Ten Virgins in Mt 25:1-3. The five virgins who brought lamps without extra oil were correctly called foolish because they were not diligent in their duties as virgins. Virgins had one task only – to prepare for the bridegroom, to welcome him whenever he came. The foolish virgins surely had a desire for the bridegroom, and they prayed earnestly to be with him in his banquet, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us.” However, their earnest prayers and sincere desires were useless because they failed to fulfill the duties that were incumbent on them. Such lack of due diligence is a sign of a weak hope. We too are lazy and careless in fulfilling our duties when our hope dwindles.
We are living in very difficult and trying times today. So much violence, natural and human disasters, corruption, and chaos. Things don’t even seem better in the Church plagued with moral and doctrinal scandals, cover up of sexual abuse from the highest echelon of the hierarchy, censoring and deposing of good and faithful bishops and the promotion and protection of those who are intent on destroying the purity of the faith and Catholic morals. Like the Thessalonians of Paul’s time, we too are being pressured to embrace the many forms of immoral pagan sexual mores. In our personal lives, we have the constant battle with our fallen nature and evil forces around us, struggles in relationships, work, etc.,
It is indeed foolishness to place any real hope in anything or person in this world. We must not be like pagans who seek for hope in this world and what it can offer. This world cannot give us any hope and it should not take away from us the hope that the risen Christ has won for us by His death and resurrection.
In these trying moments, let us look to Christ on the cross and alive with us today. Remember His words to us, “In this world, you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”(Jn 16:33) He has indeed conquered for us so that we too can conquer through Him. He calls and invites us to share in His victory too through our hope in Him.
Every altar where the Eucharist is celebrated becomes the locus of the paschal mystery through a graced encounter with the crucified and risen Lord. Here is made present that mystery of “Christ in us, hope of glory.”(Col 1:27) Our hope is renewed in each Eucharistic celebration. This is the amazing reality that, in this world, only takes place at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass.
No matter what we are going through in this life, we must never lose this hope for anything in this world because it is only through this hope that we can share in the very victory of Christ over all evil, sin, and even death itself.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!