October 16, 2009


‘Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community’

Pope Benedict XVI’s most recent pilgrimage took him to the cities of Prague and Brno in the Czech Republic. During this trip, the Holy Father returned to one of his most consistent themes: hope in Christ.

In one of his homilies, the Holy Father affirmed that “history has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions, and how hard it is to build a society inspired by the values of goodness, justice and fraternity, because the human being is free and his freedom remains fragile.

“In the modern age, both faith and hope ... have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere,” said the pope, “while in day-to-day public life confidence in scientific and economic progress has been affirmed. We all know that this progress is ambiguous: It opens up possibilities for good as well as evil,” yet it is “not enough to guarantee the moral welfare of society.

“Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions,” he added, “but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. And who can save him if not God, who is love and has revealed his face as [the] almighty and merciful Father in Jesus Christ? Our firm hope is therefore Christ.”

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein recently spent many weeks reflecting on the theological virtue of hope in his weekly column, “Seeking the Face of the Lord,” in this newspaper.

He has also announced that the archdiocese’s annual appeal is being refocused on themes of hope, compassion and community.

“All of us are given the opportunity to offer Christ’s compassion to other members of our community, many of whom suffer and are feeling alone,” the archbishop said. “Christ is our hope because he is the ultimate source of healing and consolation.”

In troubled times, when the economy is uncertain and the world’s peace and stability are threatened from every side, it is easy to lose hope—to give in to the temptation to feel lost and alone.

As the Holy Father and our archbishop clearly remind us, now is the time to look to Jesus Christ, our firm hope in times of adversity.

Where do we find Jesus during these difficult days? How will we recognize him?

Our faith tells us that we will find him in the heart of the struggle, in the eye of the storm, wherever people are hurting or in serious need. We find him wherever healing and forgiveness are needed—and wherever kindness and encouraging words are in short supply.

In other words, we find the Lord in the very places where hope is most threatened. We find him in those circumstances that most desperately cry out for compassion and community.

We find him in the center city, in rural communities, in suburban neighborhoods and in small towns. We find him in every region of central and southern Indiana where there are individuals, families and communities that need our help and encouragement in these difficult times.

In his final column on the virtue of hope, Archbishop Buechlein encouraged us to “look to Mary, the greatest witness to hope.”

We look to Mary, the archbishop writes, “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.”

Mary found hope in God’s promise that her divine Son would be victorious—in spite of all appearances—over the powers of sin and death. And she held onto that hope no matter what difficulties came her way.

Recalling Pope Benedict’s words in the encyclical “Spe Salvi” (“Saved by Hope”), Archbishop Buechlein tells us that Mary’s hope made her the model for Christian hope in every century, and the image of the Church in its missionary witness to all peoples and cultures in every time and place throughout human history.

“Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community” is the new theme for the archdiocesan annual appeal, but there is nothing new about the message it seeks to communicate.

We find hope in acts of compassion and community service. We find Christ in the witness of Mary and all the saints.

May Christ our hope challenge and inspire us to seek him, today and always, in the missionary witness of our Church.

—Daniel Conway

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