Monday, April 03, 2006

Sentences on Hope

Okay, so I stole my post title from Thomas Merton (No Man Is An Island), but it just so happens that it fits perfectly with the theme of the CL Lenten retreat that I went to this past Saturday. The whole day was beautiful—driving up with my Dad at 5am, watching an amazing sunrise in the Flint Hills, walking around the BC campus which is just beginning to be filled with the sights and smells of the new season, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and of course participating in the retreat itself.

The theme of the 2005 CL Spiritual Exercises, “Hope Does Not Disappoint,” was also the theme of the retreat. In a simple yet profound meditation on the second lesson of the exercises, led by Fr. Jerry from Minnesota, we asked the questions: “What is the hope that does not disappoint?” and “where is this place of hope in my life?”

Let’s back up for a moment, though, and ask ourselves this: “Do we even have hope?” Because in a sense, faith is easy—it’s natural. How could we look at the beauty and wonder of the world and say that God doesn’t exist? The same with charity, or love: how could we look at our fellow men and not love the face of Christ that we see in each of them? But hope is not natural to us. The man who has hope, writes Peguy, amazes even God. How is it that we are able to wake up every morning, get out of bed, and tell ourselves that today is going to be better? Time after time we are disappointed, yet time after time we continue to hope.

What, then, is the hope that does not disappoint? It is hope is Christ, the promise and fulfillment of our lives, that can never let us down. “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Hope does not come or go forward by itself—you had to have received a great grace. The greatest grace we have received is the encounter with Christ. This encounter opens a path which, to follow, we must continually recognize this grace. In living with His Presence and recognizing the signs of Christ in our lives, we will have the hope that does not disappoint. But we must remember that this journey is for our whole lives: “I believe that not even when we have found Him will we stop looking for Him.”(St. Bernard) “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (St. Augustine)

Where do we find this hope here on earth? In the place of hope, which is the Christian community. But I go to Mass, receive Communion, and go to Confession, and still I cannot hold onto hope. This reality forces us to ask yet another question: “Who are my friends?” Surrounding ourselves with people who are striving towards the same goal, and who are asking the same questions, is a crucial part of living the Christian community. Thomas Merton expressed this beautifully: “For in my soul and in your soul I find the same Christ Who is our Life, and He finds Himself in our love, and together we both find Paradise, which is the sharing of His love for His Father in the Person of Their Spirit.” Later he writes that if our souls are closed to that love, we are “denied the particular expressions which it finds through me and no other.” (both from New Seeds of Contemplation) This is an amazing proposition: that each of us uniquely expresses God’s love—and hope—to each other.

The community we need is a web of relationships that continually awakens our desire for Christ and our recognition of His Presence. These are our friends—those that we can share our lives with. What an awesome responsibility we have: to be the Face of the Presence for our friends.

The only hope that does not disappoint is this powerful Presence of You, Christ, made possible by the Spirit, because without You we put our hope where sooner or later we will be disappointed. You are the only hope that does not disappoint us, Christ.

Veni Sancte Spiritus; Veni Per Mariam


Publius said...

I great reflection and I think it reiterates a point you made some time ago.

Too many friendships are based on selfish motives: "What am I going to get out of it?" True friendships, however, are based on the desire to mutually aid one another towards the mutual goal of heaven.

Like you said, the purpose of our friendships (and also especially our more intimate relationships) is to be the presence of Christ on earth for each other.

Nice thoughts, good essay.


Publius said...

typo: *A great reflection

riskitall said...

Great Sarah, I really like this!

It is hard to have hope... you wake up and you're like, "Ok, what should I get up for?" But, with a community you have something to live for... the family, especially.

And, of course, the community of Christ and the Saints, who are always present, in the faces of others... in our souls.