Sometimes it seems like we live in a hopeless society. Not so much that we’re doomed to failure, but that are we a people without real hope in our lives. We all have little things we look forward to in life, whether it’s an upcoming vacation or the birth of a child or perhaps getting a new job or retiring. But what is our overarching hope grounded in?
Are we cheerful, optimistic, and smiling (even when it's tough to do so) because we trust that things will work out for the good, despite the various obstacles we face? Do we see life as a sporting adventure, convinced there is ultimate victory in the end?
For each of us, it’s daily struggle (to varying degrees) to maintain an attitude of real Christian hope.
I recently read an article in the New York Times about Kelly Catlin, the 23-year-old U.S. Olympic cyclist who tragically ended her life last month, despite a future destined for fame, glory, fortune, and the power that comes along with them. Spiraling despair, suffocating depression, mounting anxiety, and a whole host of afflictions can rise up and overpower a person to give into this ultimate act of self-destruction in order to make the suffering go away. We must pray for those so tempted and also for those who have fallen. And we must be a light in the darkness to accompany any friends or family members we may know in such a condition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, “suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.”
We live in times where people, especially young people, live without true hope.
And what is true hope? It is ultimately a firm trust that we will be happy and provided for, because of our identity as sons and daughters of God. Come what may, we firmly believe that we have nothing to fear. Like children of a good father, we are taken well care of; we are loved.
This week is Holy Week and the Triduum is upon us once again. “Triduum” (from the Latin for “three days”) refers to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. These days are a time of great hope when we realize what they signify: Christ gave us Himself in the Eucharist, which we share at each Mass. He died for us on the Cross to save us from our sins, from our wretched hopelessness. And He rose again from the dead, the ultimate sign of hope and joy.
What hope did those first followers of Jesus have when they saw him crucified? From the human point of view, all hope had died on the Cross along with Jesus. And yet, when we see things with a supernatural outlook, our horizons are opened wide and we are filled with expansive hope.
The real message of Easter isn’t a dead body, but an empty tomb. Christ’s death conquered death itself and we celebrate the hope of everlasting life.
Let us be bold in our hopes and our desire for God and His Glory. As the famed author of the Narnia series (and many other great works), C.S. Lewis, wrote in his book, The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Do we recognize this weight of glory—the unimaginable joy and paradise that awaits us and begins even now in this life? Or do we keep on “making mud pies in a slum,” not keeping our hopes up, and just making it along day by day?
This year, let’s aim higher and really commit ourselves—every aspect of our lives—to God and to the life he invites us to live. It’s that kind of radical hope that’s infectious and will reclaim our society to be once again filled with a true Christian hope and joy.
~ Chris Spellman