In the days and weeks after Christmas there always seems to be a lot of sales, as companies try to unload some of their excess inventory. Often the ads for these sales are accompanied by the phrases, “limited number in stock” or “this won’t last long.” As I listened to one of these ads a few days ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if many people are feeling that “hope” is one of those things that is in limited supply these days. I say this, because as I write this, our U.S. Capital has just been attacked and ransacked by an angry mob. And while vaccinations have begun, we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, there are still no signs that we will be returning to normal—whatever that normal might be—any time soon.
In regard to “hope” I think it is I important to distinguish hope from optimism. Optimism is often based on feelings or possibilities—what one can see or intuit. Unlike optimism, however, hope is not based on our view of or interpretation of current events. Rather, hope is a theological virtue in which we trust in the promises of God, as we make our way through the world, and seek to be open to God’s grace. Where optimism is based on human events and/or our interpretation of those events, hope is based on God’s love for us—revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Rom. 8:24-25) I think these words speak very specifically to our current situation. They remind us that we dare to hope because of God’s love for us. Because of this love, we are not to give ourselves over to worry or anxiety. Rather in whatever situation we might find ourselves, we have reason to hope because of God’s abiding love for us revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
It should not be surprising that in our Christian tradition, the anchor is a symbol for hope and steadfastness. The source for this symbol is found in Hebrews 6:18b-19 "We who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure, and firm.” Our experience of God’s love, and our hope in God’s promise are the anchors that hold us firm amidst the changing tides and circumstances of our lives.
Many years ago in grade school we had to memorize the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love. I confess I had to look up the Act of Hope, but as soon as I read it the words came rushing back to me. “O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.” Given all that is going on in our world today, I think it would be good for all of us to remember and cling fast to our hope in God. And it wouldn’t hurt to pray the Act of Hope on a regular basis.