Our writer today is Fr Nicholas King, SJ. Fr Nicholas King is a Jesuit priest who is currently Assistant Catholic Chaplain at Oxford University. He has recently published a translation of the entire Greek Bible.
Hope in the New Testament - Fr Nicholas King, SJ
What do you hope for in this strange time of lockdown? Hope is a strange Christian attitude, but incredibly important. It places us between the now and the not-yet. Can you remember all the way back to Pre-Virus, when we had never heard of Corona (or Zoom, for that matter)? Do you recall how simple things were then, in contrast to this extraordinary moment when it is suddenly no longer possible to plan, and all we can do is live one day at a time? So “hope” is what gets us through the darkness; and it is not the same as being “optimistic”. Our source of hope is not the gloomy insight that “things can’t possibly get any worse; so they must get better”. Rather it is the entirely cheerful certainty that God has raised Jesus from the dead, so everything is all right, no matter how dark things may appear.
Paul is the go-to person here. The word “hope” appears four times in the very first of his letters, 1 Thessalonians. Twice (1:3; 5:8) it appears as part of his great triad of “faith, hope and love”; and you may remember the same pattern at 1 Corinthians 13:13 (“there remain faith, hope and love, these three…”) and a rather more elaborate version at Galatians 5:5-6 “by the Spirit, as a result of faith, we are waiting for the hope of justification…which works through love”. And he is able to see grounds for hope, at the moment of Jesus’ coming, in the very fact of the Thessalonian community: “who is our hope, or joy, or crown of boasting – isn’t it you people also?” (2:19). The connection with Resurrection is made absolutely clear in the fourth use of the word in 1 Thessalonians, at 4:13, where he wants the Thessalonians “not to be ignorant about those who have fallen asleep – you are not to grieve like the others, who have no hope”. Here we are clearly talking about life after death.
Paul comes back to the idea in Romans 5:1-5 and 8:23-24; the grounds here are what God has done for us: “we have been justified as a result of faith, and we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ”, before he speaks of our ability to “boast in the hope of God’s glory”, and therefore even to put up with “tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings endurance and endurance brings calibre, and calibre brings about hope, and hope is not ashamed because the love of God is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit that was given us”. Here, once again, hope is a matter of recognising what God has done in Christ; and the same is true when we come to the end of this section, when Paul points to the idea of hope deep in God’s creation: “We know that the whole of creation groans together, and is in labour pains together, right down to the present moment”… and we share the groaning, but in fact “we were saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope. (For who hopes for what they can see?). Now if we are hoping for what we cannot see, then we are eagerly awaiting in endurance”. The point, then, is that hope comes because of what we have glimpsed about God. That is what Abraham does, according to Paul (see Romans 4:18-21), “hoping against hope”; and it is all about what God does and has already done in our lives. That is, according to Paul, what Scripture gives us: “it was written for our teaching, in order that through the endurance and comfort that the scriptures give we might have hope’. And hope gives us a cheerful and generous confidence: “So since we have such a great hope, we have huge confidence”. It is all about the sense of God at work in our lives.
During this plague of the virus, have you felt God at work in your lives? And has that given you hope?
Let us pray...
Heavenly Father, I am your humble servant, I come before you today in need of hope. There are times when I feel helpless, There are times when I feel weak. I pray for hope. I need hope for a better future. I need hope for a better life. I need hope for love and kindness. Some say that the sky is at it’s darkest just before the light. I pray that this is true, for all seems dark. I need your light, Lord, in every way. I pray to be filled with your light from head to toe. To bask in your glory. To know that all is right in the world, as you have planned, and as you want it to be. Help me to walk in your light, and live my life in faith and glory. In your name, I pray, Amen.
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US.