St Paul was writing to the small, fragile Christian community in the Greek city of Thessalonika, barely twenty years after Jesus had died. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them, a tiny group following a faith and a way of life that was not shared by anyone else.
His advice to them was to wear hope as a helmet, placed firmly on their heads as they faced the fears and perplexities of their new life. This piece of advice can help us understand better the true meaning of Christian hope.
We might easily mistake hope for optimism: I wish that something good will happen in the future: I hope to get that job, I hope it will not rain tomorrow, I hope my team wins the World Cup. But I can never be sure what will eventually happen: I just hope for the best.
Christian hope is something very different. As Pope Francis put it in one of his talks about hope, ‘Christian hope is the expectation of something that has already been fulfilled; the door is there, and I hope to reach the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door! I am certain that I will reach the door. This is how Christian hope is: having the certainty that I am walking toward something that is, not something that I hope may be’.
‘To hope is to live in expectation’, the Pope continues. Like a mother who lives her pregnancy in the joyful anticipation of soon seeing the gaze of her newborn child. Christian hope is ultimately living in expectation of the Resurrection, an event that has already been fulfilled in Jesus and which will be accomplished in each one of us too. Hope is living in the certainty that God is faithful, that his power, so clearly evident in Jesus Christ, is still present and active in our world, in spite of the surrounding darkness.
Lived in this way Christian hope becomes a true source of courage and strength in the face of adversity: a solid helmet as we, like the early Christians at Thessalonika, navigate the shadows of our uncertain world.
Let us ask for the grace to live these weeks of Advent in the company of the pregnant Mary, in hope-ful expectation of the Lord who comes to enable us to make sense of this world of ours.
These Advent blogs are inspired by a series of talks given by Pope Francis on the subject of hope during his weekly Wednesday audiences. These 38 talks can be found in e-book form at http://opusdei.ie/en-ie/article/god-walks-with-me-pope-francis-on-hope/