Pastor’s Corner for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

The Meaning of Hope


In his letter announcing the upcoming Jubilee Year Pope Francis wrote the following:


The coming Jubilee will thus be a Holy Year marked by the hope that does not fade, our hope in God. May it help us to recover the confident trust that we require, in the Church and in society, in our interpersonal relationships, in international relations, and in our task of promoting the dignity of all persons and respect for God’s gift of creation. May the witness of believers be for our world a leaven of authentic hope, a harbinger of new heavens and a new earth (cf. 2 Pet 3:13), where men and women will dwell in justice and harmony, in joyful expectation of the fulfilment of the Lord’s promises. Let us even now be drawn to this hope!


As we look at the Church and the world it can be easy to give in to pessimism. Like love, like faith, we have a choice. We can choose to be people of hope. We are used to looking at the world with suspicion, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It takes a lot more effort to adopt a “hermeneutic of hope”. Our scriptures and the tradition of the Church urge us to take note of God’s grace threading through the world, rather than simply focusing on the shadows.


The story of our salvation history is one of hope fulfilled. The scriptures are replete with people filled with hope, not sure of how their story would turn out, but convinced that God was the ultimate author of the story. There are stories of pain and loss, of dispossession, and of green shoots emerging from the scorched earth. The people of God had the experience of God writing straight with their crooked lines.


This is why we can say that hope is rooted in the experience of the Christian community of God’s grace in the past, but it is oriented towards the future. For hope to be realised in the concrete realities of our world, we need to collaborate with the Spirit. Hope is our anchor in the future, the vision which inspires action today. After all, if we did not believe that we can contribute to building of God’s kingdom today, why bother working for peace, or justice. If we did not believe, together with Pope Francis, that the Church is guided even today by the Holy Spirit, we would stop praying, stop discerning, and ultimately, stop belonging.


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ