In this section
Third Sunday of Advent
Third Sunday of Advent
Our Lady and St John the Baptist
It is a particularly moving Gospel. John the Baptist the last of the great prophets, whose life has been dedicated to proclaiming the coming of Christ, who jumps in Elizabeth's womb at the visitation, who points Jesus out to the crowd saying "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" who baptises him and hears the voice of God saying "this is my Son the beloved", now in prison, his own life about to end in martyrdom, sends his followers to ask Jesus "are you really the one who is to come is must we wait for someone else?" What is John thinking?
There is a link here to Our Lady standing beneath the Cross seeing her Son rejected, mocked, humiliated and killed. What is Our Lady thinking? However speculating on what St John or Our Lady thought is not as important as the answer they receive. In both cases it is the word of God. The answer John receives is "look, the prophesies are being fulfilled, the sick are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Gospel is proclaimed". To Our Lady beneath the Cross the word of God is an echo of the word she heard at the very beginning, the Word the Angel relayed to her: "Mary, do not be afraid".
Gift of Hope
The Word of God, Jesus, gives the gift of Hope. We who have been baptised, who have lived as members of the Church run the danger of almost ceasing to notice the difference the gift of Hope makes.
The Catechism describes Hope as the theological virtue by which we desire and await from God eternal life as our happiness. It keeps us from discouragement, sustains us during times of abandonment and enables us to place our trust in Christ's promises, rely on the help of the Holy Spirit and persevere to the end of our earthly life. As with all gifts from God the gift of Hope already contains something of that which it promises. To receive the gift of Hope is to stand in the presence of Christ looking forward with him to the time when his presence will be fully revealed to us and to the whole world.
All people long for hope, they want at least a better life. They may put their hope in politics, or social reform, but they forget, sometimes, that man is free, that evil choices are always possible in this world, this world will never fulfil all their hopes, scientific progress may be from a mud hut to a modern house but it will also always be from throwing a stone to dropping an atomic bomb. That is the nature of a finite imperfect world where people have free choice. The only Hope that is sure, is the Hope that is the gift of love, and that love is the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus.
Hope is such a realistic virtue. It recognises that we know Christ our Lord, he is here, he is now, salvation is ours, heaven's gate is open, and yet at the same time, we wait. Hope does not take away human freedom. There is still choice, still sin, there is still evil and therefore there is still doubt and difficulty and suffering and death. All people long for hope, they want a hopeful future, they want at least a better life. They may put their hope in politics, or social reform, or environmentalism or science, but they forget, sometimes, that man is free, that evil choices are always possible in this world, this world will never fulfil all their hopes, scientific progress may be from a mud hut to a modern house but it will also always be from throwing a stone to dropping an atomic bomb. That is the nature of a finite imperfect world where people have free choice.
The only Hope that is sure, is the Hope that is the gift of love, and that love is the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus, and that love and gift is given to us in the Sacraments and above all in Holy Communion. The gift contains that which is hoped for, eternal life is given to us in Holy Communion and for that reason our hope is certain. We hope because we already have it. To be fully revealed in the future - yes, to be thought about - yes, to be anticipated - yes, but to be guarded to for we already have it. Like Our Blessed Lady, the great Advent symbol of hope we may not see the future but we "treasure this gift and ponder it in our hearts".
Signs of Hope
Four signs of Hope which are also ways of learning hope in our lives are:
first - prayer: When no one listens to me anymore, God listens, when I can talk to no one - I can talk to God, when nothing on earth can help me deal with my need or my situation, when the world can offer no hope: God can. The Our Father is hope put into words.
second - action: Whatever good works we do, from a small act of charity to caring for our children and families. From being involved in politics to finding cures for diseases. Our daily work itself finds its true glory in Hope. It is done because in Christ the work is of eternal value. The work we do does not end with the end of the world, it continues in eternity, the consequences of our choices, our actions, our works will be revealed in eternal life.
third - suffering: We can and should fight suffering but on this earth we can never eliminate it. Even if we could cure all the ills of the world, man would still be free to choose evil. Greed, anger and injustice will always cause suffering. But in suffering, Hope - the gift of love can flower. Even in seemingly hope-less situations, in the midst of unmerited, unjust suffering, Hope gives the courage to anchor our heart to Christ and speak the words of God that reveal love "Father forgive them they know not what they are doing".
finally - judgement: Our Hope in the final judgement of God is a great consolation. Pity those who think that true justice can be found on this earth alone. Our hope is for God's justice, a judgement which is a judgement of profound love and of deep respect. A judgement of love which will forgive all, a judgement of respect which will not deny our responsibility or the consequence of our choice. We live and act in anticipation of this justice.
Advent is the season of Hope. John the Baptist points out the way, Mary shows us the way, Christ is the way and the source of Our Hope. In prayer, action, suffering and judgement let us guard the gift of Hope.