Spiritual Life

Hope cannot be quarantined

Like most of the rest of the world, my husband and I spent the Triduum hunched over my little laptop streaming Holy Week services. And while, for once in my life I was actually grateful for the technology that made this possible, it was a far cry from all my Easter heart would hope. Yours too, I’m sure.

But on Easter Sunday, we had the special privilege of livestreaming the Mass that my brother, a priest, concelebrated. As family and friends signed on to the broadcast, one by one, their faces appeared on screen, blossoming like a face-bouquet. And though a formidable spring snowstorm erupted outside, pummeling my hyacinth and crocus with inches of heavy, wet flakes, when my brother emerged vested in Easter robes, it was like a shot of holy victory to my soul.

This virus – and the devil and any hateful, destructive havoc he may unleash upon humankind – they may keep us from receiving the sacraments temporarily, but what they cannot quell is our hope. Faith, hope and love: These can never be quarantined.

Maybe it’s good for us, as a church, to burn a bit with deprivation, with desire for holy, sacramental encounter, like so many of the great saints deprived of the Eucharist in their last, most desperate hours, moments when you’d think they needed it the most, like Ss. Edith Stein and Maximillian Kolbe, or any of the Christian martyrs. Maybe we should make a conscious effort to remember that the strange and trying season of our world’s history that we’re now living through is still a part of the salvation story, even instrumental to it.

When I first started having serious health problems, I got into the habit of praying before every doctor visit – before the MRI or mammogram or blood test: “Jesus, I love you more than anything and I’m going to love you 45 minutes from now when the results come back. And I know you love me and nothing in this test is going to change that. So, we’re good.”

I know, it’s so elementary as to be embarrassing, but it always managed to settle my heart. It set me aright when I was in fear about the future. But that is what the reality of Christian hope does: It must radically realign my relationship to fear, because hope doesn’t live in an earthly outcome. It cannot be touched by disease or economic collapse. Hope is a gift given by a good and generous God who in unspeakable love imagined and brought into being the Incarnation, the source of all hope. My work is to beg, every single day, for a new infilling of it.

Many “hope imposters” parade through our culture. Pope Benedict has written so convincingly about the “parody of faith and hope” that leads to an imagined utopia. Too often the desire to get my own way, to have the last word, to succeed in my own plans dresses up like faith and hope only to be painfully exposed at the first smattering of failure. Hope is not the equivalent of my getting what I want, even when what I want is a great good: health or stability or peace on earth.

Pope Benedict writes, “Man is not the only actor on the stage of history, and that is why death does not have the last word in it. The fact that there is this other person who is active is alone the firm and certain anchor of a hope that is stronger and more real than all the frightfulness of the world.” Emphasis mine.

Check your hope. Have you placed it in quarantine? Then perhaps it wasn’t really hope but an unfortunate imposter. To re-anchor your hope, to “make it stronger and more real than all the frightfulness of the world,” remember Jesus and his church will long outlast this moment in history. He loves you. You’re good.

Let us pray: “Jesus, your word says that ‘suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:4-5). I beg you to increase in me the kind of hope that springs from the reality of your Sacred Heart and the promise of life with you.”

Liz Kelly is a spiritual director, retreat leader and the author of seven books, including the award-winning “Jesus Approaches.” Visit her website at LizK.org.

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