Hope alive! (1st week of Advent)
“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Hope is the engine that moves us towards the future. Hope is the canvas born of the artist’s reverie. Hope is the promise of “something more”. But what is it that you hope for? This is an ever pervasive question floating through existence like a cloud in the sky. Unassuming, sometimes fleeting, and other times unmistakable in its power and might.
Perhaps it is a grace that in the deeper, darker, colder months of winter, our faith invites us to reflect on the meaning of hope. Advent is the time of expectation, a period of waiting for something more. In my own experience of infertility, I often found more comfort in the tension of Advent in all its poignant longing, and more relatable scriptures of anticipation and supplication, than the culminating joy of Christmas itself. There is something profound in contemplating the present moment: that we are journeying towards the prize of greatest price. Each moment, each passing hurdle, moves us closer to that promise, that assurance that this life is a preparation for heaven. To this purpose above all else, we should attach our greatest pleasure and attention.
But let’s be honest: it is so hard! The path of infertility is really, truly, a painstaking experience. At every turn there is uncertainty, pain, imperfect longing, and unsettled grief. How do we find joy in the midst of this “winter”? How do we sort through the emotions of what is distorted, what is real, and what is possible?
These questions, spoken in honest reflection, point us towards providence’s wings. “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) This is where hope springs forth with unexpected delight. In this moment, this holy yet imperfect moment, our future calling brings meaning to our present toil. The earth shall pass away but Jesus’ words will never fade (Luke 21:33) and his words are spirit and life (John 6:63). If we live this day and every day as if it were God’s will for us, we will discover joy. We have nothing to fear because God has blessed our emptiness with the fullness of his spiritual longing. Where there is tension and longing, there is always possibility hidden beneath the surface! To endure in affliction means to silence the voices of despair with the love, faith and courage of a woman of hope. What is faith if it is not rooted in some promise of hope? What is love if it does not endure with a spirit of hope? Wherever hope resides, life is there! Wherever there is life there is something to hope for.
For you, child of God, heavily burdened and weary, are not a burden to God. You and all you are is an expression of His love. That as you live, you mark creation with your unique and beautiful soul, and as you embrace the unknown mystery of this existence, God meets you and blesses you in ways you could hardly imagine. If you are reading this and wondering what that hope or joy may be, let me point you towards the life of St. Josephine Bakhita, a young Sudanese girl who was denigrated into slavery but sustained hope through her faith. She endured her hardship with greater hope and perseverance because she knew of Jesus’ love: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” (Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI, chapter 1, paragraph 3)
Where there is hope, there is life, an opportunity for something greater, a deeper connection with our creator, and an honest disposition toward the future which we can be free to embrace knowing we are never far from the arms of Christ.
This first week of Advent, we invite you to reflect on the meaning of hope. Grab a warm beverage, your journal, and spend some time in prayer reflecting on these questions.
“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) What does this verse tell us about hope?
Reflect on your own experience with hope from the past and present. Has your hope changed or evolved?
What does hope mean to you?
Complete the following. "At the end of my life, I hope...."