My dear friends, in this Easter season, I’d like to talk to you about hope. Indeed, casually speaking, we have much to “hope” for in the coming weeks. We hope for warmer weather and for a speedy end to this pandemic. We hope that the speed of the outbreak may be slowed in the coming months, and that our lives will return to normal as soon as possible. Today, though, I’d like to talk about a deeper kind of hope. In his epistle to the Romans, for example, St. Paul wrote:
We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Indeed, it seems that the whole New Testament is saturated with this joyful and effervescent hope. Later in the same epistle, St. Paul prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul also warned Christians not to grieve those who passed away “like the rest of men, who have no hope!” So what exactly is this hope that St. Paul is talking about? How is it different from the ordinary, commonplace “hope” that all human beings have and regularly entertain?
It is true that, in a general sense, hope goes hand in hand with our human nature: to be human is to hope. The ancients have even concocted various myths (e.g. Pandora’s box) to explain the reason why, despite all the pain and miseries of human existence, we are always hoping for one thing or another. We hope for something good that may happen in the future, and no matter how much (or how little) we have, there is always something (else) to hope for. Philosophers and theologians call this state of constant restlessness and longing the “state of being on the way” (status viatoris). We human beings are strange creatures: biologically speaking, we are no different from other members of the animal kingdom; we are just as vulnerable to pain, hunger, thirst, disease and death as other creatures. And yet, our hearts long for eternity. No matter how much we have in this world, we know that we’re created for something more—something beautiful, glorious and everlasting. Sometimes, we get glimpses of this “more” even in this life (e.g. while watching a glorious sunset, or witnessing the birth of a child). But after a while, these glimpses of eternity pass, and we are left to soldier on in our restlessness and longings.
As Christians, we know that what (or rather who) we’re longing for is God: He alone can complete us and fulfill our deepest longings. This brings us to the theological virtue of hope, which is the virtue of longing for God as our ultimate fulfillment. At this point, my dear friends, you may be tempted to tell me, “That is all well and good, but how does this virtue of hope help us to navigate the current crisis, or live better lives as Christians? Does it have anything to do with our earthly lives at all? After all, believers of other religions also have their own notions of God and the afterlife, and some unbelievers also entertain a hope in one kind of afterlife or another. How is our hope as Christians different from theirs?”
I’m sure that all of you are familiar with this passage from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Indeed, what is so wrong about the world that it necessitates such a costly sacrifice? We know that our world has many problems: poverty, injustice, diseases, just to name a few. But we can work to correct these problems without entertaining any eschatological hopes. Indeed, there are currently many “good” unbelievers who are working hard to save patients, to find cures for diseases, and to mitigate the problems of injustice and poverty in society. In order to necessitate such a costly sacrifice, there has to be something fundamentally and irreparably wrong with our world—something that cannot be rectified by better laws, better wages or better medical care. Scripture calls this “fundamental wrongness” sin: it is because sin is so pervasive and bound to our nature that we need a Savior and a Redeemer.
Contrary to popular belief, sin is not merely “breaking the rules.” Sin is a declaration of war—against God, against what is good, and against the way things truly are. When our first parents chose the path of distrust and disobedience of God, they are declaring a war on all that is truly good. Since that fateful day, the world has been in a state of war and disharmony. And by “war,” I’m not only taking about people hating or killing each other. I’m talking of war as the fundamental nature of things in our fallen world: the fact that organisms have to constantly defend themselves in order to survive, and that all organisms in the visible world eventually die and decay. Let’s take a look at our bodies: we need adequate rest, nutrition and exercise in order to mount our best defense against pathogens. In turn, these pathogens are constantly finding ways to mutate and survive (which is, by the way, how new deadly viruses crop up every now and then). In the animal world, predators prey on smaller organisms in order to survive, but at the end of their lifespans, even the biggest predators become prey to scavengers, fungi and decomposers that feed on dead and decaying organisms. No matter how healthy or fit we are, our bodies grow weaker as we age. Toward the end of our lifespan, we will fall prey to one of those mutating cells (e.g. cancer) or pathogens (e.g. viruses) which our immune system will not be able to defend against. Then our bodies will die, and various organisms will feed on our decaying and decomposing bodies.
On the spiritual level, we are also at war with our sinful nature. St. Paul described a law “at war” with the law of his mind when he failed to do the good he knew he ought to do. We are helpless to stop this war, since we were born into it: physically and spiritually, we have been “at war” since the first day of our existence. This is why we need a Savior, who in His infinite love has willingly entered the war together with us. He, too, knew what it was like to hunger, to thirst, to be fatigued and to suffer during times of temptation. On that first Easter day many years ago, He proclaimed His victory over the powers of evil and death, so that those who believe in Him may also be victorious through His love. Scripture is filled with exhortations to fix our eyes and hearts on Jesus, to abide in His love, and to imitate Him so as to grow ever more in His likeness. Scripture also teaches us that our ultimate destiny is union with God in Heaven, where we will rule with Christ for all eternity.
Since we have such a great and glorious destiny, shouldn’t we spend every moment of our lives preparing for it? Let us allow the seeds of that heavenly kingdom to germinate in our lives, so that our earthly existence may slowly but surely develop the savour of that everlasting Kingdom. My friends, the world is hungry for this Hope! How many of us, believing that Heaven doesn’t exist or is unattainable, have “settled” for what is ultimately unsatisfying? We know, deep down, that those worldly pursuits, achievements and pleasures do not truly satisfy us, but we “settle” for them, since we don’t have anything higher to aim for. Still others, believing that everlasting bliss in Heaven is assured, do not see our eternal destinies as worth “sweating over.” They do not see an eternity of living and reigning with Christ worth preparing or transforming themselves for. In the end, these people also tend to put their ultimate “hopes” on things that do not last—things like earthly pleasures and social activities—things that this pandemic has taken away from us.
Dear friends, let us take this current crisis as an opportunity to sharpen our vision of Reality. We live in a fallen, war-torn world: as St. Paul once said, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Many people around us despair and seek various escapist coping mechanisms, because they can only see the labor pains and the groaning, not the glory that will follow. It is our duty, as Christians, to give Hope to the world, just as the early Christians lived lives of such hope that those who knew them couldn’t help but ask them the reason for the hope that they had. Note that, from an earthly point of view, most of the early Christians had even less cause for hope than we do today. They lived under a tyrannical regime that regularly crucified people, enslaved them and sold them to fight in the gladiatorial games. Their lives were meaningless to those in power. And yet, they were able to live out a Hope that transcends death and this world’s constant state of war and disorder. This hope spoke to those seeds of eternity, naturally present in each human soul, to such an extent that eventually, the Roman emperor and many of those in power realized who it is they should put their hopes in. No matter what our vocation is, a life lived in the hope of glory will attract others to Christ. Such a life will exude the aroma of Christ and eternity, and it will draw many to this Hope that alone can defeat death and untangle the tyrannical bonds of war, so natural to our fallen world. In these trying times, when we are unable to physically receive the Eucharist, let us remember that we are the Eucharist of this world. As members of the Body of Christ, we must feed this world with Christ radiated through our lives. Through prayers, sacrifice and the work of our vocation, our lives are like a monstrance on whom the Bread of angels is displayed.
Let us live lives of hope, dear friends! Christ is the object and cause of our hope; we must fix our eyes, hearts and minds on Him. Let us abide and grow in His love. As we feed on Him, let our hope-filled lives radiate Christ and be food for this hungry world. Only by living in this manner will we have the firm assurance that our earthly labors, done for the sake of Christ, are not in vain.
 Rm 5:2b-5
 Rm 15:13
 1 Th 4:13
 Paul J. Wadell, Happiness and the Christian Moral Life: an Introduction to Christian Ethics (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), 45.
 Cf. Eccl 3:11
 Rm 7:21-24
 Heb 2:14-18
 Col 2:13-15, Rm 8:37
 Heb 12:2, Col 3:1-4, Jn 15:9, Ep 5:1-2
 Cf. CCC 1042, Rev 22:5
 Rm 8:22
 Cf. CCC 1042, 1047-1048
 Cf. Col 1:27
 Cf. 2 Cor 2:15-16
 Cf. 1 Cor 15:58