This Hope is not Deceptive
In many ways, faith concerns something or, rather, Someone, we have now – ‘in you my God I place my trust’. Hope is more about the future. Believing in the God who is always faithful, is a knowing and an unknowing, an interplay of light and of darkness. ‘Now we are seeing only dim reflections in a mirror’ says St Paul (1 Cor 13: 12). Faith needs the ballast of ‘hoping’, namely, the attitude, desire and commitment to act towards the complete realisation of the mysterion or God’s saving plan revealed and enacted in Jesus.
Hope, then, is about the grace to keep going when things are difficult, when we can’t pray, when we seem to hit a brick wall. Or moments of loss, even tragedy, when God does not seem to be there. When the risen Jesus, our friend, seems silent, even absent. When, with the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, we feel the urge to walk away from Jerusalem (and Jesus) because our hopes have been dashed.
These are Paul’s concern in Chapter 8 of Romans. He sees them as part of a bigger picture – where creation is groaning, straining in hope in an act of giving birth. We are part of something much bigger.
Through hope, we hang in there. Teeth gritted, we cling to friendship with God. When we are conscious of our limits and weakness, there is more room for God to work. At our wit’s end, in the dark, we’ll find God there. When we don’t know what to say or how to pray, our prayer is taken up into that of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). And, of course, we can always be surprised by unexpected experiences of grace, beauty and kindness.
“This hope is not deceptive”. Paul is ‘boasting’ about ‘looking forward to God’s glory’ but also about ‘our sufferings’. To walk faithfully with Jesus, with its difficulties and troubles, brings ‘patience’. Endurance brings perseverance and strength of character which, in turn, bring hope. This is not the result simply of our own efforts. It is not ‘deceptive’ since it is the work of God’s grace. The ‘love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us’ (Rom 5:3-5).
God’s future is the object of our hope and we have the certainty of God’s faithfulness. What does our experience tell us, suggests Paul above? We get in touch with the sense of harmony with God, others and creation that accompanies God’s gracious presence guiding and animating our minds and hearts.
Importantly, God’s future is not just otherworldly arena of happiness, especially for each person. Integral to God’s reign is the transformation of human relationships and social structures at all levels. The ‘Shalom’ of God is inescapably the justice of God.
Notes by Fr Tom Ryan, SM