To be men of hope we must not be attached to anything; and live, instead, “in tension” towards an encounter with the Lord. If we lose this perspective, life becomes static and immobile. Those were Pope Francis’ words this morning during his homily at the Casa Santa Marta, all centered on Christian hope.
October 29, 2019
Hope is like throwing an anchor to the other shore.
Pope Francis uses this image at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta to exhort people to live “in tension” towards an encounter with the Lord, otherwise they will end up corrupted and Christian life will risk becoming a “philosophical doctrine”. His reflection begins with the First Reading of today’s Liturgy, taken from St Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8:18-25) in which the Apostle “sings a hymn to hope”. Certainly “some of the Romans” have come to complain and Paul exhorts us to look ahead. “I believe that the sufferings of the present time are not comparable to the future glory that will be revealed in us,” he says, speaking also of Creation as “waiting with eager longer” for revelation. “This is hope: to live prostrated towards the revelation of the Lord, towards an encounter with the Lord”, stresses the Pope. There may be suffering and problems but “this is tomorrow”, while today “you have the security” of the promise that it is the Holy Spirit who “awaits” us and “works” already from this moment. Hope is in fact “like throwing an anchor to the other shore ” and clinging to the rope. But “not only we”, but of all Creation “in hope will be freed”, will enter into the glory of the children of God. And we too, who possess the “firstfruits of the Spirit”, the security deposit, “groan inwardly waiting for adoption”.
Hope is this living in tension, always; knowing that we cannot make a nest here: the life of the Christian is “in ongoing tension”. If a Christian loses this perspective, his life becomes static and things that do not move are motionless. Let’s think of water: when the water is still, it doesn’t run, it doesn’t move, it stagnates. A Christian who is not capable of being out stretched, of being in tension, is missing something: he will end up stagnant. For him, the Christian life will be a philosophical doctrine, he will live it like that, he will say that it is faith but without hope it is not.
Pope Francis then notes how “it is difficult to understand hope”. If we speak of faith, we refer to “faith in God who created us, in Jesus who redeemed us; and to reciting the Creed and to knowing concrete things about faith”. If we speak of charity, it concerns “doing good to one’s neighbour, to others, many works of charity that are done to others”. But hope is difficult to understand: it is “the most humble of virtues” that “only the poor can have”.
If we want to be men and women of hope, we must be poor, poor, not attached to anything. Poor. And open. Hope is humble, and it is a virtue that we work at – so to speak – every day: every day we have to take it back, every day we have to take the rope and see that the anchor is fixed there and I hold it in my hand; every day we have to remember that we have the security, that it is the Spirit who works in us with small things.
In order to make it clear how to live in hope, the Pope then refers to the teaching of Jesus in the passage from today’s Gospel (Lk 13:18-21) when He compares the Kingdom of God to the mustard seed thrown into the field. “Let’s wait for it to grow”. We don’t go every day to see how it goes, because otherwise “it will never grow”, the Pope points out, referring to “patience” because, as Paul says, “hope needs patience”. It is “the patience of knowing that we sow, but it is God who gives growth”. “Hope is artisanal, small,” he continues, “it is sowing a grain and letting the land give growth.”
To talk about hope, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, also uses the image of the “yeast” that a woman took and mixed in three portions of flour. Yeast not kept in the fridge but “kneaded in life”, just as the grain is buried underground.
For this reason, hope is a virtue that cannot be seen: it works from below; it makes us go and look from below. It is not easy to live in hope, but I would say that it should be the air that a Christian breathes, the air of hope; on the other hand, he cannot walk, he cannot go on because he does not know where to go. Hope – yes, it’s true – gives us security: hope does not disappoint. Never. If you hope, you will not be disappointed. We must open ourselves up to that promise of the Lord, leaning towards that promise, but knowing that there is the Spirit that works in us. May the Lord give us, to all of us, this grace of living in tension, in tension but not through nerves, problems, no: in tension through the Holy Spirit who throws us to the other shore and keeps us in hope.
Debora Donnini – Vatican City