The hope which each of us proclaims is a profound trust in the presence and power of a God who has invited us to make the future a permanent part of our present day-to-day existence as pilgrims in a very imperfect, and sometimes painful, world. We live with a foot firmly planted in this age as well as in the next. Because of God’s promises of friendship and blessings, and because of God’s enduring fidelity, we willingly choose to live in the world as God sees it and therefore we are confident that eventually “all things will be well.” The future is already part of who we are today. For that reason we are, by definition, a people of hope!

It was the Apostle Paul who first proclaimed the inherent inter-relationship of faith, hope and charity (1 Thes 1:3), and indeed as gifts from a loving God. One of the most remarkable and memorable classes I had half a century ago at the Gregorian University was taught by a Spanish Jesuit named Juan Alfaro. His claim was that God’s grace changes the inner dynamic of the human mind so profoundly as to enable a person to place her/his life on the line and to trust, hope and love God even without the concrete physical evidence normally demanded by human reasoning. What a remarkable theory! What an even greater truth!

Our hope would be false and empty if it were only based on our own human abilities or strengths, or merely upon material resources of wealth, military power or political clout. Our hope is based on a God who is ever faithful to his promises.

When all is said and done, I remain ever hopeful because of God’s commission given to each of us, a solemn commission rooted in baptism and formally authorized by ordination, to be a witness to the Resurrection. Even after all these centuries, and amid the challenges of this moment in history, I have a serene sense of confidence in the God who has called the church into being and who promises to remain with us until the end of the world when Christ will come again with justice, truth and compassion for all people.   We are “unprofitable servants who have only done our duty” (Lk 17:10), but that duty is also a privilege, namely to wrap our lives around the God-given gift of hope.

Advent is the season in which to look beyond all darkness and sorrow. It is the season of confident hope.

It has been a privilege to have been a contributor to this column over the years.

With all that in mind, we humbly ask God to fill every thing human with the life of Christ, and to connect our modest efforts with his cosmic mission. That remains why we have hope, and why we end every prayer with an implicit Marana Tha / O Lord Come!”

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Postscript: Many thanks to each and all for the countless notes of greeting and good wishes as I enter formal retirement from administrative responsibilities in the archdiocese. I was deeply moved by the kindness which filled these pages of the Catholic Herald last week, especially all the gracious ads of friendship and partnership, and I look forward to saying so personally whenever our paths next cross. As I am wont to acknowledge these days … the years, though not always easy, have been invariably filled with grace and growth. For that we are ever both grateful and hopeful … constantly trusting that the church with all its flaws can still be an instrument of God’s grace, and that the full truth of all things will prevail. RjS