Throughout my nearly 13 years as a bishop, my episcopal motto, “Christ Our Hope,” has been a source of direction and focus for me — even more so throughout 2020.
Every Advent, hope is the focus of our prayer and reflection as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This year, however, our hope is being challenged by the pandemic, by civil unrest in our streets and by the incivility that continues to affect our culture and society.
This has made many people fearful about their physical, mental and social health, and concerned about the future and what it holds for them and their loved ones. For some, those fears and concerns have resulted in a temptation to despair, to lose hope that all of our best efforts may not change things for the better, or worse, be futile.
When we read the COVID stories, when we see violence in our cities and hear hostility among some of our civic leaders, our hope is being tested. Yet, as with all virtues, when our hope is tested, it is then that it can be strengthened and proven.
Hope is a gift of our faith in God that assures us that there is no situation that we can imagine, no situation that has ever existed, in which God can’t bring good from it. It is always possible to have a joyful, hopeful spirit going into the future.
No matter what our circumstances are, no matter what tragedies or challenges we are facing individually, communally or culturally, we know, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, that all things work for good for those who love God.
We have Our Lord’s assurance that he can transform the most desperate, difficult, tragic situations into occasions of grace and new life when we go to him in faith. There is no situation that we as Catholics and Christians confront that can overcome us because we have that assurance which is rooted in our faith, our hope in and our love for God.
In Psalms 42 and 43, we read the three laments of a man surrounded by people who are challenging his faith and beliefs; they’re saying there is no God. But he does not lose hope!
He prays, “By day may the Lord send his mercy, and by night may his righteousness be with me!” and “Send your light and your fidelity, that they may be my guide.” Three times he affirms his hope by calling upon “my savior and my God.”
Like the psalmist, we must open our hearts to God’s love. That can only be experienced and encountered if we are intentional in setting aside time for prayer — a time when we are alone with God and opening ourselves up to hear his word.
This Advent, I encourage you to welcome those encounters with God so that you will have a deep, profound sense of hopefulness for the future. That hopefulness is ours because we have confidence — faith — that God is with us.
He is always with us, directing us toward the hope of resurrection — in the most challenging months we’ve experienced this year and during the joy-filled times, we welcome with the celebration of “Christ Our Hope.”
During this season, accept the invitation to walk in that hope.