What Is Hope?

February 28, 2022
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the word “HOPE” binds our readings together.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
ept in heaven for you…

1 Peter 1:3

Wow! That’s uplifting isn’t it!

But praying with this passage, I am aware of how hard it is to really define hope. We can get it mixed up with wishing or imagining.

Hope is very different,
and much more powerful, than wishing.
It is a share in the power of God
to animate our world with divine life.

When we wish, we imagine better things and often do what we can to make them happen. Sometimes our prayers take the form of wishes – our desire for people or circumstances to be well or better. Those wishes may or may not come true. And if they don’t, we may lose what we incorrectly defined as “hope”.


We see that kind loss happen in the young man from our Gospel today. He wishes to be a better person. He wishes to truly center his life on God. He even takes the first step to make his wish come true by asking Jesus for advice:

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Mark 10:17

Jesus immediately loves this sincere young man. But says tells him that he has too many “wishes” cluttering his hope for God. Jesus encourages him to clear out space in his life for God’s Presence to transform him. Then everything will become an expression of the divine life within him.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.”

Mark 17:21

Sadly, the man cannot summon the spiritual strength to tap into his gift of hope – to rely fully on God in his life. The gift of hope is within him, as it is within all of us. But the way to it is so tangled with all his possessions that he despairs of finding it.

At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

Mark 17:22

The Catholic encyclopedia says this:

Hope is defined to be a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.


Being a “Divine virtue” means that hope, like faith and love, is given by God to each of us as a share in God’s own nature. It’s like a “divine” family trait that marks us as children of God.

When we see a child that looks exactly like a parent, we might hear people say, “You could never deny him. He looks exactly like you!” That’s how it is with the “divine virtues”. They allow people to see God in us and so to deepen their own faith.

Hope is that confidence in God which is so complete that it does not have to be proven by miracles or fulfilled wishes. Hope endures in all circumstances. It throbs within us like sacred DNA. All we have to do is clear the way for it to shine.


Poetry: Two of my favorite poems today:

  1. Emily Dickinson, in her masterfully woven metaphor, says that hope is feathered:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.


And one of my favorite poets, Lisel Mueller, says that hope is “all we know of God”:

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.


Music: Living Hope – Phil Wickham

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