A man from this parish recently discussed with me his struggle with notions of “hope” (as a virtue and way of life) since hope can seem a justification to remain passive. There’s nothing I can do about this, so I live in “hope.” Advent is supposed to be a season that opens us to “live in hope” – and so isn’t this the ultimate theological or religious “cop out?”
Once again, let me share observations from my theological mentor: Abby, our border collie! Abby is not only smart, she is also instinctively attuned to this most misunderstood of virtues. I share our residence with a dog who is always living in joy-filled expectation. If I go into the back room, she darts there (getting to the back door way ahead of me) knowing that I may be reaching for her leash (and it’s time to go out – oh boy!). She now stares at TV as the time speeds to 5:00 pm when she knows, from the change of picture and the theme music of Eye Witness News, that it’s supper time, and she knows she is about to be fed. She rolls herself on the bed in early early morning, flapping about, wanting her tummy or butt or both rubbed and trusting that no matter where she thrashes or how fast she twists, I will be there to catch her and keep her from falling.
Hope is about both “expectation” and “trust.” It is both divine gift (as its companions: Faith and Love) and our human response to grace. Based upon my experience and trusting in the Father whom Jesus proclaimed, I hope – not because I believe I can do everything or I believe that God will do everything for me (such are acts of arrogance and human stupidity, right?). I live in hope because I trust that the God who calls us out of darkness into God’s light will never ultimately abandon those who truly seek God. I live in hope because redemption has already been won for me – the greatest of gifts have been given to me, and I am never alone or left behind in this scary and often hate-filled world. I live in hope because I believe the song of the celestial messengers: “Behold! I bring you good news of great joy!” I live in hope because I expect and trust that God will always and ultimately keep His word.