The blos­som­ing of hope

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

The in­spi­ra­tional pas­toral letter the Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech wrote on the oc­ca­sion of the feast of the As­sump­tion of Mary into Heaven is, in it­self, an important mile­stone “in the nar­ra­tive of Chris­tian hope” for the peo­ple of Malta and Gozo.

Rather than stress­ing the “ethics of fear”, Bishop Grech’s pas­toral letter was a fruit­ful ex­er­cise on the “ethics of hope”. Ir­re­spec­tive of the dif­fer­ent opin­ions one might en­ter­tain on hope, one can­not help but agree with the spirit of the pas­toral letter.

Un­for­tu­nately, there are peo­ple who are faith­ful ad­her­ents to the dark night of hope. The pas­toral letter men­tions peo­ple “who have given up hope in the face of chal­lenges of per­sonal, fa­mil­ial and so­cial na­ture”. Even Church mem­bers are not im­mune to this catas­tro- phe. The pas­toral letter men­tions those who “are de­luded be­cause they have not seen the hopes raised in the Church by the Sec­ond Vat­i­can Coun­cil 60 years ago”. There are also those who are re­sist­ing “cer­tain re­forms in the var­i­ous as­pects of the Church’s life”. Oth­ers are “con­fused in the face of a cer­tain ad­journ­ment the Church”. Whereas oth­ers are en­tirely fo­cused “on the de­fect rather than the much good there is in man”, thus ig­nor­ing “the ef­forts, however small but sin­cere, that a per­son tries to make to stand on his feet”.

Bishop Grech rightly in­sisted that “the Church ex­ists in or­der to offer true hope for hu­man­ity”. But what is the Church re­ally propos­ing? Je­sus Christ! In fact, in his first letter to Ti­mothy, Saint Paul says: “Je­sus Christ is our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). But who is this Je­sus Christ Saint Paul is preach­ing about? Cer­tainly, He is the one who ap­pre­ci­ates the tini­est of ef­forts the sin­ner does in or­der to rec­on­cile her­self and him­self with God the Fa­ther. As hap­pened in the case of the man who was born blind from birth, Je­sus “tries to ig­nite the doused flame of hope in that per­son by ap­pre­ci­at­ing the pow­er­ful po­ten­tial in him and in dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple like him”. Fur­ther down in his pas­toral letter Mgr Grech com­mented: “While those around Je­sus fo­cused on moral fault, Je­sus had mercy on the per­son with­out any hope. What civil so­ci­ety and the re­li­gious com­mu­nity considered to be rub­bish, in Christ’s vision was an op­por­tu­nity for God to re­veal him­self; that which in man’s judge­ment was a man­i­fes­ta­tion of ‘sin’, for Christ be­came a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the grace of God.”

The sin­gu­lar char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Chris­tian God is that of re­deem­ing re­al­ity in the light of the Res­ur­rec­tion of Je­sus Christ. For in­stance, the Cross of Je­sus from a sign of curse and death God the Fa­ther com­pletely changed it into the sign of sal­va­tion and res­ur­rec­tion. Hence, the pas­toral letter ex­plained:

“In the light of the res­ur­rec­tion from the dead, even the Cru­ci­fix is a sym­bol of hope. As Pope Fran­cis con­tin­ues to teach us, Je­sus cru­ci­fied is a foun­tain of hope that blos­somed pos­i­tively by the power of love: for love that ‘hopes all things, en­dures all things’ (1 Cor 13:7), love that is God’s life, re­newed ev­ery­thing it came into con­tact with. Thus, at Easter, Je­sus changed our sin into for­give­ness, our death into res­ur­rec­tion, our fear into trust. That is why our hope was born and con­tin­ues to be re­born on the cross; that is why with Je­sus, any darkness can be changed into light, ev­ery de­feat into vic­tory, ev­ery sin­gle de­spair into hope”.

Ob­vi­ously, such hope is trans­lated into con­crete ac­tions that help it blos­som. The pas­toral letter high­lighted the “wise dis­cern­ment that one makes to find the way”. What this pas­toral text is re­fer­ring to is the “need to in­ves­ti­gate, to sift and judge” a given sit­u­a­tion and have the “courage to try and change it”. That is why Bishop Grech’s pas­toral coun­sel is worth re­flect­ing on: “Let us re­mem­ber that a small step, in the midst of great hu­man lim­i­ta­tions, can be more pleas­ing to God than a life which ap­pears out­wardly in or­der, but moves through the day with­out con­fronting great dif­fi­cul­ties.”

Fr Mario At­tard OFM Cap

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