We are already at the end of the third week of Advent. All through the Advent readings, there is a theme of encouragement and of hope. The faithful are encouraged to be people of great hope – not so much in people and circumstances, but rather in God who loves us far beyond what we can ever imagine. A few weeks ago, we were reminded that to God, the entire world is like a grain in a balance, or like a drop of morning dew falling down upon the earth; but yet you show mercy towards all (Ref. Wisdom 11: 22-23).
During the first week of Advent, we’ve been hearing some incredible readings about God’s love and mercy towards us as the Church looked at the message of hope and encouraged the faithful to do the same. So what exactly is hope? Is hope something tangible that you can reach out and touch? Can I see hope? What is this hope all about and how does it relate to Advent?
Hope is to believe in something (someone) better or greater that the conditions or circumstances being faced. Hope supersedes circumstances. To hope means to believe in someone much greater than you and I; someone who can take charge of our situations, no matter how dismal they may be. To hope is to believe that tomorrow will be brighter that today – even though we may have absolutely no idea how. In the book of Job, the word hope was mentioned several times – and I think we are all aware of Job’s ordeal. In short, he was a just man who in a very short space of time, lost everything including his family and his possessions. When you read this story, you can’t help but think ‘how depressing’; but yet hope is mentioned several times in the story.
Hope is the opposite of despair. To despair is to be consumed by the situations and circumstances around us. It is what happens when our focus becomes overrun by the negatives in our lives. On the other hand, to hope is to lift up our eyes high above the negative circumstances that surround and seek to overtake us. The Psalmist reminds us, “I lift up my eyes to the hills from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Ref. Psalm 121: 1-2)
In Trinidad and Tobago, we are faced with what seems to be an up-hill battle against crime and at times, the magnitude of where we have sunk to and what we have become is rather daunting and can lead to despair. Advent challenges us to ‘hold on’! Advent challenges us with the answer – that is to hope; hope in God who created us in love and for love. Advent challenges us to turn our eyes upon Jesus, the Son of God as the One to deliver us.
Psalm 145: 15 tells us, “Happy the nation whose god is Yahweh!” In other words, happy the nation whose focus, whose hope is the Lord. I made mention earlier of the amazing Advent readings we’ve had; readings of great hope. There is another aspect of these readings that I’d like us to focus on; it is that of turning around towards God. When we do that, we will find that He will come running to meet us. Such is His incredibly amazing love for us all.
As individuals, as a people, as nations, we have turned away from God. We have turned our backs on the One who gave us life and has provided for all our needs. That is why we now have these “monsters” in our midst who do not value life and can take another person’s life in the most gruesome manner. Yet the love and mercy of God is also extended to these “monsters”.
The season of advent is likened to that of lent. We are called to repent in order to prepare a way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives. We can encounter Jesus’ coming in many ways. As Catholics, we encounter Him every time we receive the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments. Jesus can come to us through people and sometimes from persons we least expect – like the encounter I wrote about with Uncle Vic, the homeless man.
Hope is to look around in our world and at mankind, and in spite of all the negatives, be able to see goodness. Hope is that wife looking at her husband who has been an alcoholic for most of his life and still loving him and seeing in him a soul that needs to be redeemed. Hope is that mother whose son or daughter is caught up in the might of drug addiction, but keeps on praying every day and night because she believes in a Power so much greater than the evil of any addiction. Hope is that young person whose father is non-existent and whose mother lives on the street, but who continues to try and strive to excel at school because he/she believes that they were created for so much more. Hope is what God our Heavenly Father sees when he looks at us in our wretchedness through Jesus Christ the precious Lamb of God that was slain.
Heavenly Father, you love us in spite of who we are, in ways our minds cannot attain. But yet Lord, in spite of your great love, we have turned our backs on you and placed our hopes in earthly gods that did not make the heavens nor the earth; earthly gods that have no eyes to see us, no ears to hears our cries, nor heart to love us. Please Lord, open our eyes to the error of our ways and grant us the grace to repent and to turn back to you; to lay straight the crookedness of our lives. Grant us the grace Lord to make you our First Love; grant us the grace to place all our hope and our trust in you Lord.
God of Host, bring us back. Let your Face shine on us that we might be saved.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!