The following story by Bishop Peter Christensen appeared in the April 7 Idaho Catholic Register.
People always hope for the best, even in the face of adversity, writes Alexander Pope. In his 1733 poem, “An Essay on Man,” Pope expresses the idea that humans always have hope, no matter how bleak or difficult their circumstances because hope is the inherent quality in the human spirit that no one can take from us.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”
Pope is suggesting that while life seems pointless to some living in the middle of it, order can be found in God.
When repeating the phrase, “Hope springs eternal,” few realize it comes from a classic piece of literature that serves as an affirmative poem on faith. Today, the words are often used as a glib cliché suggesting the chances of good outcomes to whatever next-to-impossible situation a person may be facing, such as when someone buys a lottery ticket or is hoping one’s favorite team wins the championship despite several losing seasons. It’s in this usage that the phrase “pipe dream” comes to mind.
Alexander Pope suggests that hope is an ongoing virtue, a God-given quality. How blessed we are to have such an underlying gift that gives foundation to our faith. During the Easter Season, I believe this gift is made even more apparent and tangible as the transformation from death to life is evidenced in Christ rising from the tomb.
We begin to experience, in a greater way, Christ, in whom we have placed our hope as we become even more intentional in our observing the history of God’s actions in the world and in His actions among us. As we do this, I believe the Holy Spirit begins to lift the veil so that we can see anew what God is doing in our lives. We put our trust and confidence, our expectation and our anticipation on future events that are certain to come. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised that it will come to pass!
To relate it to our own hope, an analogy using nature, may give more clarity to what I’m saying.
This year, for all of us who live in Idaho, we may feel like winter will never end. Usually, by the beginning of April, the trees are in bud and their blossoms already bloom. By now, bulbs planted in the fall are fully in bloom, as well. Having experienced the rhythm of the seasons, we have well-founded hope and confidence that the days are coming when we shall see the outbreak of greenery and color. However, for now, while there is still the occasional snow and cold, we must live in hope.
Similarly, our faith is planted in Jesus Christ. Even through the dark and bleak times when we may not recognize a rich experience of faith, we know deep down that our faith will bear fruit by the new season of revelation that God will shine upon us.
We are reminded in the prayers of our funeral liturgies: Life has changed, not ended. We have learned to place our hope in God, who gives us the gift of hope. He will not leave us deprived of the benefits yet to come when we place our dependence on Him. We belong to Him. He will not leave us disappointed.
Therefore, as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we, too, can echo the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:4-9)
Know that “Hope springs eternal” as we celebrate this Easter. May we always rejoice in Our Lord who is present among us today!
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