How often have any of us been tempted to take the short cut knowing implicitly that the longer route held much more promise? We elect frequently to settle for momentary gain at the expense of long term growth. We can then settle into patterns that inhibit our growth indefinitely. It’s not meant to be this way. Our happiness demands that we break free and be the person that God designed us to be. It is difficult however in our modern world where the lure of comfort and pleasure often trumps [no pun intended] our spiritual welfare. We see this repeatedly in the quest for power, or prestige or wealth. We forget sometimes that we were meant to live in a community of love and that the ego needs to be submerged so that we can live not only for ourselves but very definitely for others.
Enter the theological virtue of “Hope” [Christian Hope]. This virtue is very much intertwined with the concept of the “Kingdom”. As Christians, we have accepted, at least intellectually, the premise that Jesus is the “way” and the “light”. If we have not been fully evangelized to take this to “heart” then we run the danger of settling for less than the Kingdom by reposing in a “world” whose values may bear little resemblance to the Christian values we should embrace as members of the Kingdom. Jesus made this quite clear in answering the enquiry of Nicodemus who had heard Jesus state that “ In all truth I tell you no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” [John 3: 3]. Nicodemus asked the logical question “how can anyone, who is already old, be born? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born” [John 3: 4]. Jesus answered, “In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit: what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit” [John 3: 5-6]. St Thomas Aquinas noted that “hope is born from the desire for something good that is difficult but possible to attain”. We rest on Hope when we petition God for help in navigating our way on our earthly pilgrimage. This requires an evangelization of the heart resulting in a personal relationship with God who, as our Creator and our friend, blesses us, steadies us and encourages us that we might have happiness. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his 2007 encyclical, “Saved in Hope”, “the one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life”. This new life is life in the Kingdom.
As we prepare this Christmas to receive Jesus again, may we resolve to embrace Hope that we may live earnestly in the Kingdom undeterred by the “worldliness” surrounding us.