September 25, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Look to Mary, the greatest witness to hope

This is the final column in a series of reflections on the theological virtue of hope.

With the guidance of Pope Benedict XVI, in “Spe Salvi” (“Saved by Hope”), we have tried to understand more fully what true hope is, how it relates to faith, and how genuine hope is found not in politics, science or technology, but in the provident love of God.

We looked carefully at what it means to be a “pilgrim people” who are on a journey to be with Christ in heaven.

At the end of this journey is the Last Judgment, which will call us to accountability for the way we have lived and exercised the freedom that God has given us.

Finally, we discussed briefly the Church’s teaching on heaven, hell and purgatory, and the hope which is to be found in the integration of justice and mercy that we believe can only be found in Jesus, the Just Judge.

As Pope Benedict reminds us: “Life is a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him, we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way” (“Spe Salvi,” #49).

Hope is not an individualistic virtue. It is a gift from God through other people (witnesses to hope). We are called to be good stewards of this gift, to share it generously with others.

Of course, the greatest witness to hope is Mary, Star of Hope, whose every word and action points the way to Jesus, her son.

“With her yes,” the Holy Father writes, “she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living arc of the covenant in whom God took flesh, became one of us and pitched his tent among us” (cf Jn 1:14), (“Spe Salvi,” #49).

We look to Mary because she experienced the confusion and anxiety that we do. She had reason to despair because of the “sword of sorrow” that pierced her heart. But Mary never gave up hope. It sustained her all the way to the foot of the Cross, and to the joy of her son’s resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Pope Benedict tells us that Mary’s hope made her “the image of the Church to come which carried the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history” (“Spe Salvi,” #50).

Why do we look to Mary as the pre-eminent witness to hope in Christ? What is it about her life that justifies the name given to her by Christians of all generations: Mother of Holy Hope?

Every significant stage in Mary’s life—from the moment she was visited by the angel Gabriel and learned that she was to become the mother of her Lord, through the disappointments of his public ministry, until she stood beneath the Cross—she was repeatedly confronted with choices that required blind faith in God’s Providence.

From a human perspective, Mary had every reason to be afraid and anxious.

In every case, Mary said yes to God’s will. She chose to trust in divine Providence. She gave witness to the hope that depends totally on God’s loving care. Mary trusted her divine son and his father in heaven. She accepted many things that she did not understand, and she placed her hope in the only thing that is always trustworthy: the love and fidelity of the Triune God.

As we conclude our reflections on the theological virtue of hope, a virtue that is especially important in these uncertain times, we pray with Pope Benedict: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, our mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!” (“Spe Salvi,” #50).

Oh, Mother of Holy Hope, bless our archdiocese, and all the people of central and southern Indiana, as we continue the journey of hope in Christ that was begun here more than 175 years ago.

Together with St. Theodora Guérin, Servant of God Simon Bruté, St. Francis Xavier and all the saints, show us the way to Christ our Hope so that, like you, we may say “yes” to God’s will and be a community of compassion. Amen. †

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