The Virtue of Hope
By Sister Nancy Kellar
In Tertio Millennio Adveniente Pope John Paul II calls for this year to be not only a year of the Holy Spirit but also a year of Hope. "Believers should be called to a renewed appreciation of the theological virtue of hope, which they have already heard proclaimed ‘in the word of the truth, the Gospel’ (Col 1:5)" (TMA, 46). St. Peter says, "Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Pt 3:15). What is the reason for our hope?
In his letter to Hebrews St. Paul speaks of hope as an anchor. "Seize the hope that is placed before us like a sure and firm anchor." (cf. Heb 6:18-19). What is the strength of an anchor? In itself it is quite small compared to the huge ships it can hold firmly in place in the ocean. Its strength is in the ground that holds it fast. The ground of our hope is the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. Again in Hebrews 10 Paul says that hope is unshakable confidence and perfect tranquility for the fulfillment of the promises because the one who made the promises is faithful.
Hope is confidence in the unshakable promise spoken over and over to us. "Fear not, I am with you" (cf. Is 43). "I am with you until the end of time." (Mt 28:20).
When leaving the ship, the anchor needs to make a journey through dark waters before reaching the ground. Our hope too needs to make that journey through uncertainty clinging to the confidence that He is always there as the ground beneath us. The basic promise of God to be "with us" offers no answers, no security, no kingdoms of our own, no justification. In Lamentations 3 the prophet cries out to the Lord from the pit, "You see, O Lord, how I am wronged; do me justice!" (Lam 3:59). The Lord draws near and says simply: "Fear not, I am with you" (cf. Lam 3:57).
Hope calls for abandonment, for our surrender to His faithfulness. The Psalm-ist says: "Those that sow in tears, shall reap rejoicing" (Ps 126:5). The farmer goes forth weeping because he must let go of the apparent security of having the seed in his hand. He must let go of it, cover the seed with the ground and trust the seed will produce fruit. Our letting go, our trust in His faithfulness releases the power of God to act in us! In Acts Paul is asked why he is on trial. He could have answered: "I raised the dead, healed the sick, escaped prison, survived ship-wreck." Instead he went to the heart of what he knew was the source of the power of all that he did. "It is for my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors that I am on trial." (Acts 26:6).
Of Mary, our model of hope, Scripture says, "Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk 1:45).
"May the God of hope bring you such joy and peace in your faith that the power of the Holy Spirit will remove all bounds to hope" (Rom 15:13). The bondage of fear is one of the enemies of hope. Fear paralyzes us, keeps us closed, unable to trust God and let His promises be fulfilled in us. God understands our fear of surrender. In the Nativity readings in the Gospel of Luke the angels preface each promise to Zechariah, to Mary, and to the shepherds with "Do not be afraid" (Lk 1:13,30; 2:10).
We fear what God might ask of us if we surrender to Him. I live with a sister who was afraid if she surrendered totally to God He would send her off to some far away place. God said to her, "Gloria, if I want you to go there I will put such a desire in your heart to be there you won’t want to be anywhere else!"
Another challenge to our living in hope is the need for patience: patience with God’s plan, with one another, and with ourselves is the daily practice of hoping in God. The farmer needs to wait in patience for the ground to bear fruit. In Romans Paul says we must be content to hope that we shall be saved—our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were... we must wait for it in patience (cf. Rom 8:24-25)
We need to look to the patience of Jesus in the passion as He accepted suffering for the sake of the kingdom. "Let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless let it be as you, not I, would have it." (Mt 26:39). Hope is not the absence of suffering, it is courage in the face of suffering. Hope is not hope if it does not involve embracing the Cross, trusting that all things will work together unto good for those who love God (cf. Rom 8:28).
When we had the vision for our House of Prayer twenty-two years ago, the Lord gave us the reading from Habakkuk 2:2: "Write the vision down . . . if it comes slowly wait, for come it will without fail." While we waited our Sr. Marjorie encouraged us with the story of the winter wheat which lies beneath the snow all winter, and when it comes up in the spring it is the finest wheat!
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM ICCRS Newsletter May June 1998
Blessed is she who believed…
by Patti Gallagher Mansfield
Did you know that 30 years ago when the Charismatic Renewal was born on the Duquesne Weekend, Mary was there? After all, she is the Mother who was present in the Upper Room, the Mother of the Church. When we students from Duquesne gathered in the chapel, another "upper room", our first activity was a meditation on Mary given by one of our professors. I was struck, not so much by his words about her, as by the unction that accompanied them. And it’s this unction that I’ve been seeking for these simple words of mine, because I am convinced that the future of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal hinges on our relationship to Mary as our model and also as our mother. In fact, in this year of preparation for the Jubilee, Pope John Paul II has asked the whole Church to turn to Mary as the model of faith and to contemplate the mystery of her Divine Motherhood. Consider with me three mysteries in the life of Mary... one joyful, one sorrowful, one glorious, and "as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress" (Ps 123:2), so let our eyes be on her hands.
The Annunciation: Hands Open and Empty
Here is Mary, the woman of prayer, attentive and before God, not clinging to any previous plans, not dictating any conditions. A simple fiat. Yes. Be it done to me according to your word. Indeed, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord" (Lk 1:45). By faith she permitted the Father to fulfill His plan and welcomed the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. By faith she embraced the Word made flesh in her womb. We know that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (cf. Heb 11:6) and that Mary found favor with Him by her faith.
So must we, at this juncture in our lives as individuals and as a movement, kneel before the Father in a radical poverty of spirit and learn to pray with hands open and empty. In the past 30 years we have received great graces, but I’m afraid that too often we’ve returned to God with our hands full instead of empty. I sense that there are new "annunciations" being given for a new move of the Spirit, but that many of us don’t really want God to be God. We still want Him on our own terms... a God who will fit into a prescribed pattern of acting. We don’t want the God who turned Mary’s life upside down. Let’s be careful! By her faith, Mary permitted God to "create a new thing upon the earth" (Jer 31:22). As I’ve asked Mary to be my mother and teach me to pray with hands open and empty, this is what I am learning to say to the Father, "With Mary, I want to be for You all YES, only YES, always YES."
The Cross: Hands Over a Pierced Heart
"Behold your Mother!" (Jn 19:27). Here is Mary, the sorrowful mother, standing near the Cross, her faith put to the test, steadfast in hope and in love, receiving from the lips of Jesus her new mission to be mother of us all. Here is Mary, hands over a heart that is pierced by the sword, just as Simeon prophesied. I have come to see that either we meet Mary at the foot of the Cross, in our own moments of suffering and pain, or we meet her elsewhere and she brings us there... to the Cross of Jesus, to contemplate and to receive the waters of the Spirit flowing from His wounded side. This is our place of safety as we seek to live more deeply in the Holy Spirit.
Many of us have tried to avoid the Cross and the painful purification it brings. How often our actions reveal arrogance and pride in spiritual matters rather than humility and meekness. When the sword of suffering has pierced our hearts, we’ve often given up hope instead of turning to Mary who is ready to teach us faithfulness in the midst of trials. Our Mother knows about pierced hearts and she wants us to have in the future a new purity to correspond to the new outpouring of graces. Mary is teaching me to say to Jesus: "Burn out of my heart a love for myself and burn into my heart a love for You and for Your Cross."
Pentecost: Hands Raised in Praise and Proclamation
"Spouse of the Holy Spirit": this is the title for Mary used by many of the saints. I can imagine Mary at Pentecost reassuring the disciples that what they see and hear is indeed the Holy Spirit. Like any spouse, she has an intimate knowledge of the One who loves her, the One she loves. She knows His touch, His taste, His manner of acting, and how to yield to Him in love. Mary knows what the infilling with the Holy Spirit is really all about... it’s about loving union! She is our best teacher in praise and in proclamation. I love to pray with her words in praise: "My soul magnifies the Lord" and in proclamation "God who is mighty has done great things" (Lk 1:46). The late Cardinal Suenens wrote in his preface to my book, As By A New Pentecost, "Jesus Christ continues to be mystically born of the Holy Spirit and of Mary, and we must never separate what God has joined together."
The New Wine
Like an intoxicating new wine causing joy and gladness among God’s people all over the world, there’s a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit taking place today. It’s bringing about deep conversions and reconciliations and giving impulse to new ministries. I believe it is a sign of the approaching Jubilee. Let’s not miss out on this new wine! At Cana it was Mary’s faith that led her to say, "They have no wine" (Jn 2:3), moving Jesus to act and bringing on the "hour of the Lord." I believe that Mary stands before us today, waiting for us to turn to her with confidence, trusting that her intercession will mediate this new wine of the Spirit for us again. And why should we desire this new wine?... not simply for laughter and refreshment, but that Jesus might manifest His glory and that His disciples might believe in Him (cf. Jn 2:11).
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM ICCRS Newsletter July August 1997