Living in Hope
December 2012 — Vol. 2, Issue 5
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
“God-is-with-us.” This is the great message at the heart of Advent, the great season of hope. Our hope is renewed and deepened these days because we remember and celebrate Emmanuel – God with us.
Christ came as one of us in the past, Christ continues to come into our lives in the present, and Christ has promised to come and be the consummation of our world at the end of time. Indeed, we have every reason to hope.
Reflecting on the virtue and gift of hope was the focus of Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, which opened with the words: “‘Spe Salvi facti sumus’ – in hope we were saved.” “Redemption,” the Holy Father wrote, “is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope” (1).
There is something similar here with the place of hope in our vocations, which are, of course, wrapped up in the mystery of our redemption. To paraphrase the Holy Father, to have hope is to be set free – to be saved. In the same way, in hope may we grow confident that we have a call, an invitation to respond to. We are able to receive our vocations when we have the hope that not only God has a plan for our lives, but also that God wants us to find that plan and He is going to help us find it.
If we think about it for a moment, why would it be otherwise? Why would God go to the lengths of providentially laying out a path for our lives – in order to draw us and others with us to salvation – only to leave us on our own to find that path?
Of course, placing ones hope in God’s great desire to make His call known is one of those things that are easier said than done. When one’s discernment starts to drag out it can become hard to hope that Christ is near and is present to help us discover our vocations.
That is why the season of Advent is such a rich time for those discerning their vocations. By renewing your hope that Christ has come, that He will come again, and most importantly that He continues to come in your life today, you can approach your discernment with the hope that the search requires.
In that same encyclical I mentioned earlier, Spes Salvi, the Pope identifies three “‘settings’ for learning and practicing hope” that can help us live this Advent well.
The first is prayer, which Pope Benedict XVI calls a “school of hope” (32). In particular, the Holy Father speaks of “prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness – for God Himself; He was created to be fulfilled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness which it is destined. It must be stretched” (33). Prayer is the work of stretching out our hearts to receive Christ. Seek out new ways this Advent to enter more deeply into prayer and to increase your desire for God. Consider Adoration, or praying with Scripture, or praying with the Blessed Mother.
The second setting for learning hope, for the Holy Father, is “action and suffering” because “all serious and upright human conduct is hope in action.” Specifically, he speaks of “our capacity for accepting [suffering], maturing through it, and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” (37). Where this Advent we can bear suffering on behalf of others? Could it be reaching out in some form of Christian service, especially one that might challenge us? Or could it be striving for patient hope and charity in relation to a fellow student or co-worker who tries our nerves?
Finally, the Pope writes of “judgment.” Given how God has revealed His love and mercy for us, the Pope writes of the final judgment as “not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. … It is an image that evokes responsibility.” And so this Advent, where does remembering the eternal significance of our lives call us to greater responsibility? Where might we take up our growth in holiness with greater zeal? In the end what is the life that we wish to present to the Lord?
All these ways we renew and deepen our hope this Advent season can help us to believe ever more the words of God: “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jeremiah 19:11). We do have every reason to hope. God is with us.
Prayer from the Tradition
Enter your email address to receive our monthly discernment e-newsletter: