March 27, 2024 at 9:41 a.m.

EASTER 2024: A SEASON OF HOPE

Hope is not just something from within us, it is also a special or supernatural gift from God.
The risen Christ is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y. Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, is March 31 this year. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
The risen Christ is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y. Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, is March 31 this year. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) (Courtesy photo of Gregory A. Shemitz)

By Father Anthony Barratt | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy …!” (Romans 15:13)

First of all, I hope that you have had a fruitful and inspirational Lent. It only seems like yesterday when the ashes were placed on our foreheads with that prayer: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Now it is time to wish everyone every joy and blessing, as we prepare to celebrate the great and wonderful season of Easter: the resurrection of our Lord and the life this brings to us. Jesus’ death and resurrection is, in a way, the key that opens the door of God’s love and mercy to us: in other words, the gift of new life and hope.

This promise and possibility of new life and hope Jesus brings at Easter is about our future (life after death), but also about our present. As Jesus says: “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). This year, it strikes me that the here and now message of Easter is especially about the gift of hope. This may seem a strange thing to say. After all, we all encounter many worrying things on a big scale, such as the ongoing war in the Ukraine, the situation in Israel and Gaza, or divisions and violence in our own country, or economic uncertainties. Many of us have more personal or local worries too, such as family issues, or health matters, or a concern about the future for ourselves and for those we love. In this election year, there are also so many uncertainties and possibilities.

So, what is this much needed and Easter gift of hope and how can we experience and live this hope? Well, we are certainly familiar with the idea of hope. There is what we might call a natural or human sense of hope. We might hope for success in an exam or an important interview, or we may hope that the results of a medical test are good. We might hope for a better financial situation. We might hope that a family member or friend manages to turn their life around, or we may just hope that we do win the lottery after all these years! We also know of people who have lost all sense of hope and it is certainly hard to imagine how life could continue with such a loss.

Christian hope may involve some of these more human hopes, but it is also quite different and, in many ways, deeper. First of all, true hope is very much the Easter gift. We can think of the apostles and disciples on Good Friday and then Holy Saturday and then see how they are transformed by hope on Easter Sunday. The Catechism tells us that “hope” is one of the theological virtues. It defines the virtue of hope as: “The theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (# 1817)

Hope then is not just something from within us, it is also a special or supernatural gift from God. This special gift assists us in our daily life and also helps us journey well through this life toward heaven (see Catechism #1818). Therefore, it is very much a practical gift! It is something certain too. The basis of our hope is in Jesus and his resurrection. In this hope, our Lord gives us life to the full here and now, but also when our journey of life is complete. This is the “sure and certain hope” the Commendation Prayer in the Funeral Rite speaks of.

Hope is definitely a gift from God but, as St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, we must also choose to use and live that gift. Hope then is not only a gift, but a decision or choice that we make. It is a positive act of our will to accept this gift and to be a hopeful person. I am sure that we all know amazing people who, despite very tough situations, have made that choice. They encourage us and inspire us, reminding us then that hope is also a gift to be shared. As Pope Benedict XVI taught, Christian hope is never individualistic, but rather always for others.

Christian hope is additionally something active, especially as a motivator or driving force in our lives. It is not some sort of day dreaming or wishful thinking. It is a deep desire and a thirst, and an expectation of having what we desire or thirst. St. Augustine says something quite startling about this dynamic nature of hope: “Hope has two beautiful daughters, their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” We can think of so many inspirational figures in history who changed the world for the better, motivated and driven by hope. We are called to do the same. Yes, it can be therapeutic to vent or to complain about how bad things are, but as people of hope we must then do something about it.

This active understanding of hope also means that it is refreshing and life-giving, but not in the sense of pretending all is fine when it is not. At best this is unrealistic and, at worst foolish (and incredibly irritating to others!). Rather, hope is about avoiding the temptation of becoming negative or of being jaded and cynical, but rather seeing beyond a situation to what can be and with a constant freshness. As G. K. Chesterton wrote (hope) “keeps alive in oneself the immortal power of astonishment and laughter, and a kind of young reverence.”

In this Easter season may you and your family experience this wonderful gift of hope. May we all be ambassadors of that hope to others; for that hope is desperately needed. Let us also ask the prayers and guidance of our Blessed Mother, “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” Finally, let us remember that the coming Jubilee Year of 2025 has, as its theme, “Pilgrims of Hope.” It is a strong reminder of how central hope is to us as Christians as we journey through life, but also that we are to make a difference by being active promoters and bringers of hope to others.

Father Barratt, STL, PhD, EV, ChM, is the director of the Office of Prayer and Worship, episcopal vicar for the Hudson Valley Vicariate, a member of the Presbyteral Council & College of Consultors and pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in Hudson-Germantown — all in the Diocese of Albany — and adjunct professor at Siena College and St. Bernard’s Postgraduate School of Theology and Ministry in Albany.


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