Let us have a spiritual conversation about hope. What is hope? Where do we find it? What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life. We need to live hope now more than ever. With all the trials we have been through and the trials that are ahead, hope is important and we have a God of hope. In Romans 15, St. Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13).
First, I want to say I want to pray with each of you to have hope and hope in abundance. I have heard in these past months such beautiful reflections from many of you. You can come to this time as a test of faith, a wake-up call to love what we have in the Church. I admire you and your faithfulness. God is at work in this. I recall Joseph, who was sold into slavery, yet comforted his brothers about their sin. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” May we save many lives.
Thank you for your patience and creative ways that the Gospel is being preached and your faith life shared. We believe in the God of Hope. Our hope is in the name of the Lord, who created heaven and earth. That Lord is in every tabernacle. He not only creates life but loves each life he has created.
Most importantly, God has destroyed the power of death. Isn’t that what the world needs to hear today? I have been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for many years, but I feel this is the prayer that says it all for me in this continued time of trial. The world needs to know the mercy of God. Maybe you need to know it too. St John Paul II, when he dedicated the world to divine mercy, said, “I wish solemnly to entrust the world to The Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate throughout the world.” What more powerful prayer is there? For the sake of your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Prayer is the language of hope. I am thoroughly convinced we need to pray even as things might get a little better against this evil that has spread through our world. Pope Francis, in his message to the world March 27th, said the same. Pray to end this scourge, this evil. This hope is not wishful thinking. It is not optimism. I know it will all work out. Hope is much stronger than this. Hope lifts us out of the rubble of our failures, our pain and our fear to rise above what at one point seemed insurmountable. Hope gives us our ability to endure, to persevere.
What is Hope? Hope is the virtue by which we firmly trust that God, Who is all-powerful and all-faithful to His promises, will in His mercy give us eternal happiness and the means to obtain it. Hope says we have a future in Christ. What we hope for in the future determines how we live in the present. Notice the Catechism says hope is in the promises of God for eternal happiness.
Here is a living parable of hope in a true story from the gulags. There was a story of two men in the Stalin prison camps who got the same sentence of 10 years, one survived the other died in despair. What was the difference? The oneman died in despair soon after he heard his whole family was killed and he had no one that was there to wait for him. He had no future. The other man had a family that wrote him saying, “We will wait for you until you are free. He had a future. The second is the image of the Church. We encourage and say we are with you. You are not alone in this suffering. We are with you until you are free. You have a future in Christ. Prayer is the language of hope.
Let me ask you this. Do you fear death? Many people are afraid of death. Maybe most. Much of what we see in the news is the number of deaths caused by this virus. Of course, we want to prevent as many as possible. But all the people saved from this death (and we pray there are many) will die later. We hope for a vaccine for COVID-19, but there is no vaccine against our inevitable death. The closest is the promise we receive in the Resurrection of Jesus. The hope we receive from the cross of Christ.
Remember in the gospel (John, chapter 11) when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead? We see the full humanity of Jesus in the face of death. Lazarus was his friend. Jesus loved him (v.3). He was “deeply moved” and “troubled’ by his death” (v.33). In the shortest verse in the Bible, we read “Jesus wept” (v.35). Yet Jesus is also, uniquely, the answer to death. Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” “You don’t have to wait for the end. I am, right now, resurrection and life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live.”’ (vv. 24–26).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis of our present and future hope. Be hope for others. You don’t have to say it is all okay or everything will be fine because maybe it won’t be. You can say I know my hope lies in Him who died to set us free even from death itself. In Christ, we have a future. In Christ, we place our hope. Amen
Where do we look for hope? I look to the saints. In the past, when people have felt crushing powerlessness, the faithful have found hope and help and even miraculous cures, through the intercession of saints. The saints remind us that we are not facing this crisis on our own; we have the Lord and His glorified souls who stand ready to intercede for those who call upon them.
Okay, here is a Catholic enigma. Do you know the saint that is one of the patrons of pandemics? The saint is called St. Corona. Yes, you have heard correctly. St. Corona witnessed the martyrdom of St. Victor, a soldier who was executed by his brothers for his faith. He was being tortured and disfigured, but the brave Corona cried out comforting words and encouragement as Victor held fast to his faith as he gave his life for the Lord.
The persecutors then turned on her, bending two palm trees and tying her between them, so that when the trees were released she was ripped in two. She did not give up her faith. As Coronavirus wreaks havoc and challenges every life, St. Corona allows us to lean into our faith and in Jesus no matter the turmoil that is around us. Let us prayerfully ask for help in these troubled times. St. Corona, patroness of epidemics, pray for us.
Prayer to St. Corona
Lord Jesus Christ, You came into this world for our salvation.
Look kindly on us now, we pray,
that we, and all those who serve You,
might be kept safe from this epidemic.
Heal those who are sick, comfort the suffering, bring back those who have gone astray, and above all, increase our faith, O Lord.
Give us the grace to follow You and, like the martyr St. Corona, who gave her life for love of You, to take up our crosses daily without fear or hesitation.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
St. Corona, patroness of epidemic victims, pray for us.