Last night, Wednesday 2nd December, I led the second session of our mini-advent retreat that focused on hope. Here are the notes from that session.
Tonight, 3rd December we have the last session that reflects on love. If you would like to participate and have not sent in your email, you can still do so by sending your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org
All are welcome
Pour out your spirit of hope on all of us united this evening. Speak to our fears, our anxieties and worries. Help us be still and know that you are our God. Help our world to find new hope at this time of Advent in a way that guides all people to you. Help us to be signs and lights of hope for others. Never allow us to give in to despair. May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our hope in you.
HOPE BORN OF FAITH:
‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire’
‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Is. 9:2).
Advent as a time of hope. His birth gives birth to hope.
The bedrock of all hope is the resurrection. If God can produce the best from the worst then what reasons do we have not to hope??
The Apostle Peter asked Christians living in Asia Minor to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Pet. 3:15).
WHAT HOPE IS:
Hope is a gift from the Holy Spirit that has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom. 5:5). It is a power that flows from steadfast faith in God’s promises.
Hope goes beyond this world and longs for our eternal union with God. This is the fulfillment of our ultimate hope.
Walking next to the Lord Jesus in the darkest moments of the cross when things have no explanation and without knowing what will happen next
Hope saves us: ‘The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life’ (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 2)
For the Christian who suffers, trials are not ends in themselves but temporary moments of transformation to be embraced as the means to make us more perfect in love and more perfectly united to the source of love who is God.
This is the source of our hope – that all suffering takes place with the future in view where God’s kingdom will be realised, where suffering will come to an end and give way to the joy of perfect union with the God of love and beauty.
“In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The woman at the well. Jesus expanded her horizons of hope
WHAT HOPE IS NOT:
A wish that things will return as they were before.
A naïve optimism, melancholy or spiritual consolation
Thinking that more human effort alone and will to power can restore a reason to live.
CHALLENGES TO HOPE FOR THE IRISH CHURCH:
How do we find hope at this time when the Church is contracting?
Aftermath of scandal
Loss of the referenda
The tide is against us culturally
THE CHURCH IS NOT DYING BUT CHANGING:
‘From today’s crisis will emerge a church that has lost a great deal. It will no longer have use of the structures it built in its years of prosperity. The reduction in the number of faithful will lead it to losing an important part of its social privileges. It will become small and will have to start pretty much all over again. It will be a more spiritual Church, and will not claim a political mandate flirting with the right one minute and the left the next. It will be poor and will become the Church of the destitute’.
Joseph Ratzinger in 1970. ‘What will the Church Look Like?’ in Faith and the Future, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2009, 116.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE:
Taking the longer view. We may not have chosen these times but we have been chosen for these times.
The ruins of places like Dunbrody Abbey, Tintern Abbey, Cashel, Clonmacnoise, etc. The last monk who blew out the candles in these monasteries. What were his thoughts? Perhaps not of a resurgent Church in the mid-1950’s!
History has shown that while the stance the Church takes on many issues can seem at odds with popular opinion, it doesn’t mean that what she teaches is wrong. Issues of the past and present need to be debated courageously with a confidence in the prophetic truth of the Gospel for every time and place.
This is a time for holding our nerve.
STARTING AFRESH FROM CHRIST WITH NEW HOPE:
The future Church in Ireland will be smaller but more authentic. She will be a leaven for the rest of society that she will both affirm what is good and prophetically challenge what is bad. She will be salt of the earth and light of the world. This is our call and future.
But we need the courage and confidence of the Holy Spirit, to hope against hope.
We don’t have a blueprint of the future. God’s people were guided by a cloud in the exodus story. It wasn’t all light.
To guard against complacency.
An attitude that tells us that there is no point in trying to change things, that there is nothing we can do.
By force of habit we no longer stand up to evil. We “let things be”, or as others have decided they ought to be. Fatalism and a determinism that says ‘there is no point’.
‘Yet let us allow the Lord to rouse us from our torpor, to free us from our inertia. Let us rethink our usual way of doing things; let us open our eyes and ears, and above all our hearts, so as not to be complacent about things as they are, but unsettled by the living and effective word of the risen Lord’. Pope Francis, Rejoice and be Glad, 137.
INSPIRING WITNESSES TO HOPE:
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus – Luke 24.
St John Paul II – witness to hope
‘Although I have lived through much darkness under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young…do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it!’. Toronto 2002.
Ordinary people of heroic faith who are heroic witnesses to hope.
‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples’. St teresa of Calcutta.
HOPE – A BALM FOR HUMANITY
One of the main reasons for depression is despair or a lack of hope
“Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!...Christ is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again. When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope” (Pope Francis, Christ is Alive)
The shadow of the cross. There is a shadow because there is light.
The shadow will disappear but the light is eternal.
LOVE GIVES BIRTH TO FAITH AND HOPE:
"Hope comes from love, because people always trust in those they love." St Catherine of Siena, Letter T352.
Liverpool anthem – ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
‘Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ never walk alone’.
MARY – WOMAN OF HOPE
Mary’s hope endured beyond the cross
She places her trust in God’s power and promises
She trusts that God will act (the wedding at Cana) and she praises God when he does – casting down the mighty, feeding the starving.
‘O Mary, you remain in the midst of the disciples of your Son as our Mother, and as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to God’s Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way! Amen.