Hope is one of the theological virtues (along with faith and charity). It isn’t some pie-in-the-sky sort of wish for something that may or may not be likely: “I hope it doesn’t rain today” or “I hope my husband did the laundry”. As Catholics we understand hope as the virtue that is given by God and allows us to trust that God has willed and won our salvation and will grant us eternal life. It means that even when things seem at their darkest, we have a hope, a sure faith, that the darkness will not have the last word.
The Prayer over the People for the First Sunday of Lent includes the petition asking God to send His blessing down so that “hope may grow in tribulation…” Often times, in Lent, we can develop such a sense of our own sinfulness that we forget about the mercy love of God; we forget that no matter how “bad” our sins may be, we have the hope of something much greater.
The world seems more topsy-turvy than it has in a while: there is a threat of nuclear war, school shootings and other violent crime, global weather events, refugees from seemingly every corner of the word, and just a general sense of darkness. We are reminded though that the darkness does not win. In the midst of what I think can rightly be understood as tribulation, we are called to be a people of hope. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act to bring about goodness and light in the world now but it does mean we shouldn’t despair when we fall short. We don’t hope things will get better, we work to make them so. We have hope that God loves us and the world so much that our work, together with others and together with His, will ensure that light and goodness carry the day.
As we begin the first full week of Lent, we are called to remember that no matter how dark things may seem, God is always standing by with the light.
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director for Liturgy in the Office of Formation for Discipleship.