Today’s reading from Hebrews exhorts us “to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.” It summons us not to lose zeal for—and thus turn our hearts away from—the most promising possibility with which God wants to bless us.
Christianity is unabashedly a religion of hope and Christians are called to be shining and resilient witnesses of hope because Christians believe that the God who first blessed us with life wants us to share fully in the joy and love and beauty and goodness that is God. But the very nature of hope reminds us that we are on a journey toward a fulfillment that we can anticipate (and, in some way, already experience) but cannot yet completely enjoy. Hope orients our lives to a future good that absolutely transcends anything we could ever give ourselves but which, precisely because we do not yet possess it completely, we can begin to doubt.
The passage from Hebrews warns us not to become “sluggish” regarding the object of our hope but instead to keep our attention fixed on it. It is a perceptive and timely reminder that affirms not only how easy it is to turn away from the good that God has in store for us, but also to begin to doubt its very possibility. Or, perhaps more likely, we fill our lives with so many distractions and attach our hearts to so many lesser goods that we gradually forget that there is something greater, something far lovelier, and something infinitely more hopeful to which God calls us. In order to avoid those disheartening possibilities, there are two things we can do. First, as Hebrews reminds us, we must remember that all of us are heirs to the love, goodness, and mercy of God. God wants to bless us and will bless us because God, as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus vividly testify, is faithful to his promises. Second, as our gospel today memorably illustrates, we keep hope alive not when we are gloomy legalists who live to find fault with others, but when we seek to do good in whatever way we can.
Paul Wadell is Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the extended Passionist family.