Psalms 103:13-14, 15-16, 17-18
I didn’t have to delve very far into today’s readings before I knew where my reflections would lead. The very first part of the very first sentence of the First Reading speaks directly to what has long been a central theme of my own faith journey. The passage is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for…” For me, the relationship between faith and hope has always been difficult to understand, at least for very long.
There was a time earlier in my faith life when I figured that it was all fairly simple and clear. When there was something that I wanted or needed for myself or a loved one, I would ask God in faith for it and then wait in hope for my prayers to be answered. Of course, my petition wasn’t always granted. When that happened, I assumed there was somehow a problem with the depth of my faith, not the depth of my hope.
Later on, when life became much more complicated as it seems to for all of us, when my petitions were proportionately more fervent because they were seeking much more important things for much more important people in my life, I had cause to reconsider the connection between faith and hope. When my prayers concerning the well being of a child, the security of the family, or response to a loss appeared to bring no answer, the simple explanation no longer sufficed.
For me, the answer was found in a deeper acceptance and awareness
that the loving hand of God was present in my life, no matter how it seemed
my prayer petitions turned out. And that same constant love was being
showered on everyone else around me as well. My prayers were always
being answered; I just needed the faith to see it. As for those prayers
themselves, I still include in them specific people and intentions, but
I am less specific about what I want to happen, that is, what I’m hoping
for. Again Paul takes up the topic, this time writing to the Romans:
“Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what
one sees?” (8, 24) In other words, is it really hope in God, if I’m
fixed on exactly what I’m hoping for? Maybe true hope is really a
matter of faith, a “confident assurance,” that a loving God always gives
me everything I need. At least, that’s how it appears to me at this
point in the journey. Stand by.
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