What is hope? What is hope for us Christians?
In the dictionary, hope is said to be about feelings. It is a feeling of trust into future. It is waiting with trust for the realization of what we desire. Note that here, hope is passive and there is mostly waiting involved. But in this teaching instead of speaking about waiting, I want to speak about being an instrument of hope
As I had opportunities to listen to your stories, and to share with you during our sharings in San Damiano prayer or in other occasions, I have noticed something: We all have different reasons that push us to come to Bukid or to join the SD activities (Meet people, be with some friends, spend time together, stay in a peaceful and comfortable place, for the calm we can find here, for the joy we share…), but one thing is common to all of those reasons. We all seek hope to help us consider the possibility for a future with joy and no more fear.
At the end of the book of Revelations, chapter 21 verse 4 we read: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order [world] has passed away.”
So hope, or living in hope is living with our heart opened to future, wishing and trusting God that it will be joyful like described in the book of revelation.
As I spoke about our experience together in SD community, we can see the difference between the hope described in the dictionary and our Christian hope that is activated with faith, which brings action into it. Indeed, together we build our community where we feel well, peaceful, happy, joyful…
What is the source of our hope?
Answering this question, I want to go back to the core source of our hope: It is the Bible. The bible is a quite big book, that contains many kinds of text: stories, poems, prophecies, with various messages that are delivered to different audiences. But there is one main message carried by the Bible: “Death is not the end of all things, with God there is joyful and peaceful life coming after it.”
This message is highlighted by what we experience with the whole Church during Holy Week: The passion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This message means that after our life on earth, we have the promise of a following life in the kingdom of God. This is so great!
This also means that death or suffering on earth are not what we should stop to. If we trust God, we hope that we will have a better life in the Kingdom, and we know that the kingdom has already started on earth. All the joy we encounter, all the good that is done on earth, is a taste of the Kingdom. Like when you cook you like to taste the ulam to be sure there is enough salt.
We know that God died yesterday on the cross because of human sin because of our sin. But that is not all, he shows us with his resurrection tonight that death is not the end. With him he carries all humanity: each and every one of us is saved.
You are saved, you are saves, I am saved…ikaw ay iniligtas ni Hesus, ako ay iniligtas ni Hesus, Ikaw ay ligtas!
All the bad and evil in our world: natural disasters, war, violence, injustice, lies… that we encounter every day is not the ultimate truth, the truth is Jesus Christ, his life, his passion and his resurrection.
John 14.6: “I am the way and the truth and the life”
So our ultimate source of hope is to remember that the death of Jesus was followed by his resurrection. That life is victorious against sin. That evil is defeated everyday by good!
Our source of hope is the victory of peace and joy, against sadness and suffering.
How to be an instrument of hope?
We are all called to experience God’s love for us. Some feel it in their bodies. It can feel like a veil of tenderness, a cool or warm blanket that surrounds us and comforts us. This feeling of love bring us joy, peace, hope, and many more. But when we receive those gift what should we do?
In his Gospel, Jesus invites us to share them with others. This is why it is important to share hope around us, and to be instrument of hope! I have tried to think about some keys that can help us be instruments of hope and have noted two.
The first, and I think the most important key to hope is to put our faith and trust in God. A person in the Bible that is a great example of this is Abraham. His faith in God was so strong that he was ready to give the life of his only son to God. Abraham didn’t know everything about God, but still he trusted him with the most valuable thing to his eyes (his son).
How to trust God? I believe that a starting point is to say it, and repeat it: “God I trust you, and I need you!” and then the rest will come. “We are what we say”, so if we say to God that we trust him, it will transform us little by little.
An other thing is to bind to God as to a confidant or friend that we trust. And what do we do with a friend that we trust? We tell him everything.
In front of God, we can say everything, surrender everything. We can tell him about our weaknesses, our difficulties, our suffering (and of course our happiness and joy). Without asking anything, but simply by handing over to him, we can let him work on it. God sees this weakness and this suffering, and is not indifferent to it, he will act for us.
Say: “Lord I trust you and I need you because I am weak and I suffer!” And tell him why: “Lord I am sad because I fail in my mission! Lord I suffer because I get bullied at school! Lord I am tired because I have bad sleep and pain in my back!Lord I put my trust in you to help me where I need the most!” (Those are examples)
You can also say (or sing) an abandonment prayer. Here is one that is beautiful from Blessed Charles de Foucauld:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.
As our trust in God grows we get more and more united to him. Remember that God wants us united to him, he wants us to be like him.
Genesis 1.25: “Then God said: Let us make* human beings in our image, after our likeness”
Genesis 1.26: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them;”
Our personal prayer is the strongest weapon ever. It is so strong because it is the best way to be united to God. That is why seeking to be united to God trough personal prayer is so important. Remember, we saw in Bukid a movie about it last week (War room). What that movie reminded me, is that God is creator and master of all good. It is him who gives live, it is he who consoles, it is he who bring peace in the world, by using those who want to be instruments of it.
Let us sing together and then pray for one another in the deep silence of our heart.
The second key is the Gospel, and more specially the joy of the Gospel. In SD we are so lucky to have many patron saints. One of them is Saint Francis of Assizes. What is very particular about him is that he choose to live the joyful radicalism of the Gospel, and was finding his hope in it. He needed hope as all humans, because in his time there was war, there were many inequalities, injustice, and he decided to fight it in a radical way: by living the Gospel.
So following the example of saint Francis, let us discover what we can concretely do to be instruments of hope.
1st point: Community
In our community life, in our fraternal life, in our relationships, and through common prayer, we can be instruments of hope. God created us to be in relationship with him, and with one another. He wants for us to have relationships whose cement or glue is Love. The way we behave with others can bring hope to the world: Do we pay attention and support other in their difficulties? Do we rejoice together with those who are happy? Do I accept anybody, how they are, with their differences? Do I respect others?
It is also in how we live together in community in our daily acts of love: Do I keep the CR clean after using it? Do I clean my space in the room so that it does not disturb others? Do I take my part in the community work and life? When I do my coffee, do I pour sugar and coffee powder everywhere? Do I live my glass in a random place after drinking or do I clean it and put it back where it belongs? If I feel that the CR is dirty because of the previous user, do I let it like this, or do I clean it for the next person? Same for any place that I find dirty, do I clean it for the next even if it is not my fault?
The biggest love is present in the small things, in the details that we always forget. And sharing that kind of love brings hope to the world.
Living in community is also having a common time of prayer. This is why in SD it is so important that we have some prayer time together. This is subject of the next point.
2nd point: Praise
Praise or worship is the second point and a very important point for saint Francis. Some time we sing a very known hymn the the creation:
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful…
Worship allows us to rejoice together with the creation, for what God gives us. Even in his most difficult times, saint Francis was always giving thanks to God for all he had in life. Doing like this keeps the flame of hope alive in our hearts. But it also shows those around us who are in pain that hope is alive!
This point is a complement of the first Key (faith and trust). The first key is about a relation between me and God, it is very personal. But in this current point with worship, it is with all the creation that we rejoice and that we praise.
3rd point: Dialogue and Encounter
Dialogue is a way of putting our faith into action and daring to meet others. Daring to meet the ones that do not think like us.
Saint Francis had this great desire to travel far from his home to a place where there were only enemies. He wanted to meet their leader. Saint Francis was ready and wanted to die martyr for this. The leader in question was the leader of the Muslims at that time. Saint Francis had the opportunity to meet him, he tried to convert him to the Catholic faith, but the other refused. Saint Francis was sent back to his home, sad because he failed and sad because he was not martyr.
But he kept trusting God, and kept announcing the Gospel to all around him, bringing peace and joy to every house he went in, and spreading hope in his world.
So let’s not be shy about our faith, and specially about our hope, and share it with the world, by showing it of. Let us be proud about our faith and our hope.
Say: “I am proud about my faith!”
4th point: attention to creation
Saint Francis is not only known for his particular way of living and sharing the Gospel. He his also known for his love for the creation. Some story say that he could speak to animals. And when reading about him I found out that he loved all the creation so much that he would ask his brothers not to cut living trees or branches for fire wood. He would also protect the smallest insects and make sure he would not sit on some ants.
In hope we can only pay attention and care for God’s creation, and for life in general, whether human, animal or vegetal. Protecting the creation makes us close to it, and some how, makes us whole and allows us to find peace.
As you work with your hands in a farm and as you care for your soil, for the animals that you raise, you get united to the creation and to God. The work of our hands is so precious. This a reason why SD cherishes manual work so much.
In the context of the ecological crisis that our world is suffering, paying attention to the divine creation is a true sign of hope. Hope that even the smallest acts to save the creation are meaningful.
Hope is about trust in God for our future to be joyful. To be instruments of it, we need to trust god and communicate with him in our prayer following the example of Abraham. We can tell him our weaknesses and difficulties, he will do what is needed to help us.
We can follow the way of saint Francis by spreading love in the little details in our community life. Also, by worshipping God for all the good he gives us in our lives we will keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts and this fire will spread as a wild fire spreads.
Then by our will to meet with those who do not believe like us and by our dialogue with them, we can share our beliefs and share our hope. And finally, our attention to creation is also a sign of our hope as our simple act towards respect of the divine creation are part of a bigger fight against destruction.