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

Easter Saturday

April 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 118, today’s verses a song of utter confidence in, and thanks for, God’s faithfulness.

Give thanks to the LORD who is is good,
    whose mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    who has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
    in the tents of the just.

Psalm 118: 1, 14-15

That profound trust and gratitude are captured in the enduring word:

“Forever” is a word we tend to toss about carelessly, as in:

It took my pizza forever to get here!

I promise I’ll love you forever.

Really? Could “forever” possibly apply in both these cases????


I think, in fact, we cannot begin to conceptualize “forever”, just as we cannot possibly conceptualize God.

What we can do is 

  • to pick up the fabric of our life as it flows through time, 
  • to place it with trust in God’s enduring love, 
  • to slowly, continually become knit into God’s faithfulness, 
  • to finally become still as, in each moment, that Love carries us to “forever”.

Poetry: two selections today

Forever – is composed of Nows by Emily Dickinson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies 

From Miracles by C.S. Lewis

It is probable that Nature is not really in Time 
and almost certain that God is not. 
Time is probably (like perspective) the mode of our perception. 
There is therefore in reality no question of God's 
at one point in time (the moment of creation) 
adapting the material history of this universe 
in advance to free acts 
which you or I are to perform 
at a later point in Time.

To God
all the physical events and all the human acts 
are present in an eternal Now. 
The liberation of finite wills 
and the creation of the whole material history of the universe 
(related to the acts of those wills in all the necessary complexity) 
is to God a single operation. 
In this sense God did not create the universe long ago 
but creates it at this minute—at every minute.

Music: Swept Across Forever – Tim Janis

Psalm 145: Through the Generations

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we again pray with Psalm 145 – different verses. The great tenderness in today’s other readings is reflected in the choice of these particular psalm lines.

Our first reading is God’s tender love song to Israel spoken through the prophet Hosea. Our Gospel recounts several acts of tenderness as Jesus ministers to the suffering people he meets.


Psalm 145 reminds us that if we look back over our lives, and even farther back over our ancestors’ lives, we too will discover God’s continual love and mercy to us.

Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.


Many ancestral blessings have been passed on to us – in skills, attitudes, physical strengths – but most importantly, in faith. We probably believe because someone before us taught us how.

There is no greater gift we can give to our children, and to all our beloveds, than to encourage their faith. Let’s take that to heart today as we pray. And let’s thank God for our own story and heritage of faith we have been given.


Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge by Emily Dickinson, who appeared as more a dismissive critic of faith than a proponent. Yet, like many of us who bother to talk about a particular topic, she proved it to be more important to her than she professed.

Faith — is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not —
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side —
It joins — behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: In Every Age – Janèt Sullivan Whitaker