Today we begin the joyful season of preparation, Advent. We remember not just the Lord’s coming into the world as a baby some 2000 years ago, but we anticipate His triumphant return “in a cloud with power and great glory”.
It is a time when our “liberation is near at hand”. This is a time when we deepen our relationship with the Saviour in the hope that we can “stand with confidence before the Son of Man” (Lk 21:25–28, 34–36).
Over the next four weeks, we celebrate the virtues of hope, love, joy, and peace. It is particularly significant that on the first Sunday of Advent, we focus on hope.
At this time in our global and personal history, the world seems gloomy and hopeless. Tribulation abounds as Covid-19 ravages our lives with ever-increasing numbers of cases and deaths.
In this country, despite the free and easy availability of vaccines against the disease, families are torn apart, parishes are traumatised by serious illness and the loss of precious lives.
In our communities, we witness the suffering of brutalised wives, desperate and hungry families, parents of suicidal children, victims of road rage and of the senseless brutality that has pushed our murder rate ever higher.
Civil and global conflict, other manifestations of violence, deprivation of one kind or another, injustice, anxiety, and fear mark our age. Hope seems to be part of a distant dream, an ironic and cruel teaching that mocks our Christian reality.
At this time of preparation, it would serve us well to understand what the theological virtue of hope signifies.
It is not a vague wishing that our problems will disappear. It is a conscious collaboration with Almighty God that makes us turn to Him in the expectation that He will hear our prayers if we actively and deliberately cooperate with His will for us.
In an interconnected and cynical world, this seems like Orwellian “pie in the sky”. If we choose to follow this view of life, we choose to allow ourselves to fall into a trap of hopelessness and to allow despair to drive a gulf between us and our loving and all-powerful God.
As Christians and believers in the power of the Almighty, this can never be our choice.
Hope is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit. It comes to fruition in the work that we do to fulfill the words of The Lord’s Prayer, the ‘Our Father’, “May Your Kingdom come”.
As deliberate collaborators with Almighty God, we trust that He will give us the strength, peace, and joy that He is with us, despite the calamities that surround us. It demands that in our limited capacity, we do what we can to relieve pain and suffering and to bring comfort and trust to those to whom we are sent.
Each of us has different gifts, as bestowed by the Spirit. Hope allows us to use these gifts in practical situations, in tangible and intangible ways, in the belief that our efforts will be pleasing to God and that our hands will be His hands, working for and among His people.
As we contemplate the situations in which we each find ourselves, may we pray for clarity of vision, strengthened faith and practical application of our gifts so that hope may be embodied in each of us.
May we be His light in a dark and uncertain world.