I asked some of my friends recently what hope looked like and to give me some examples. Whichever way one voted in the Brexit referendum in 2016, it is hard not to get dragged down by the bleak prospects predicted for our nation post March 29th. As a result, perhaps, we need a sense of hope more than ever. There were a number of insightful suggestions. One wrote,
‘... Hope is not for the selfish. It is not a thing we should cling to or hang onto, it is the thing we should give to others. If someone around you is looking for hope, give it to them. This is not done in positive soundbites or long speeches, it is done with love. "Faith, hope and love. These three remain". No coincidence that all three are gifts. Gifts are not for keeping but for giving…’
Another sent me a photo taken from inside a cupboard.
Another wrote movingly,
‘... hope isn't is wishful thinking. It's a brutal fact that each of my children have a 50% chance of having inherited my husband’s condition/genetic mutation. 50% chance that they all have it, or none of them. Wishful thinking might make me ignore this statistic. Hope means that I believe that they can all live rich and fulfilling lives, and at their futures are in God's hands…’
In my experience, the word hope is one that is used with some regularly within faith communities. Hope for Christians is not feeble and frail, but sure and certain. It is simultaneously something on the horizon towards which we travel, but also something tangible which we hold in our hands and travels with us.
Hope is God’s business. It is second chances, restored relationships, forgiveness given and received, and outsiders welcomed, and the wayward returned home.
In these days before Lent, we are reminded that God’s business of hope is found both on the horizon: at the cross towards which we journey; and in the nail imprinted hands of Jesus. As his family, that is true for us too: at the cross, we are invited to crucify with Christ that which divides and dehumanises, but also to remember that as we bear the mark of Christ on and in us by virtue of our baptism - we hold the hope for which so many look and long for in our hands.
The Benedictines have a motto - laborare est orare - to work is to pray - the idea being that their life together in the monastery would have plentiful helpings of both, but both were of equal importance in a life with God. In that sense, praying is seeking to align our lives with God and to seek His will for us. It is not just something we say, but rather something we do; something we are.
It is all too easy when one is feeling hopeless, to look to hope arriving from on high. In these days, let our hands, our lips, our hearts and our lives be the hope that we and our communities need. Hope is a work of God in and for us; like our prayers, let it be something we do; something we are.