Today’s reading from Hebrews exhorts us “to hold fast to the hope that lies before 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. Our life is an unfolding journey to God—an itinerary to beatitude that culminates in joyous communion with God and the saints—and hope keeps us on the right path. But the very nature of hope reminds us that we are pilgrims 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 utterly transcends anything we could ever give ourselves, but which, precisely because we do not yet possess it fully, 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 firmly 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 there is something greater, something far lovelier, and something infinitely more hopeful to which God calls us.
In order to avoid these woeful possibilities, there are two things we can do. First, as Hebrews reminds us, we must remember that we are heirs to the love, goodness, and mercy of God. God wants to bless every one of us in unimaginable ways by sharing with us everything that God is and God, as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus testify, is faithful to his promises. Second, hope will anchor and steady us, keeping us on the right path, if instead of imitating the gloomy legalists in our gospel today who live to find fault with others, we seek, like Jesus, to do good in whatever way we can whenever we can.
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family.