Apostle of Hope

It was a year of hard knocks, and frankly I’m happy to exchange the 2008 calendar for a new one.

Posted by Dr. Scott Hahn on 12.30.08 |

The economy took us all for a wild ride. Many of our dear friends and most steadfast donors suffered setbacks. Some lost their jobs. Some lost their retirement funds. Many lost their confidence.

And the financial knocks weren’t even the hardest. The pro-life and pro-family cause suffered setbacks, leaving many good people discouraged after a bruising battle.

We may indeed lose money (and we have). We may indeed lose battles (and we have). But we must not lose hope. Not now. Not ever.

Hear our patron, St. Paul. Now is no time for gloominess. No, he says, “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12). Note that he doesn’t tell us to rejoice in fulfillment, but in hope and even in tribulation! St. Paul is a hard-nosed realist — and he’s telling us, with the firm conviction of a drill sergeant, to stop our grumbling and start rejoicing.

Why? Because God himself assured the Apostle: “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). If God has allowed us to suffer defeats, it’s only because he wants us to see how glorious the victory can be — and who’s really winning the battle. (Here’s a clue: It’s not you and me.)

Our patron is paternal, but not patronizing. Remember, he himself suffered. He received thirty-nine lashes on five occasions, was beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked (see 2 Cor 11:24).

Yet he bore it all with an optimism and joy that he dares us to imitate. “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Cor 3:12).

So we should be bold this year. It is only when we put our hope in princes — or even worse, in ourselves — that we give in to defeatism. “If for this life only we have hoped … we are … most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19). He directs our attention to Abraham, who, against all odds, “in hope … believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations” (Rom 4:18); and Abraham was certainly vindicated.

Again I must emphasize that this is not “pie in the sky.” It’s the realist St. Paul who can acknowledge just how dire the situation is: “creation,” he says, “was subjected to futility.” Ouch. But wait: even this was “the will of him who subjected it in hope” (Rom 8:20).

If we suffer now, it is for the sake of greater glory. That must be our hope. We may have to endure more hardship, but “endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 5:4-5). Why? Because “We know that in everything God works for good” (Rom 8:28).

St. Paul was no Pollyanna. Through all his troubles he remained very human. When he sensed that his greatest trial was coming — his martyrdom — he ached for human companionship, friendship, encouragement, support (see 2 Tim 4:9f). Don’t we all?

Well, thanks to you, I have all those things. I am profoundly grateful for your generosity and your prayers.

My prayer: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).

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