By BRENDA HOPF
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
What does hope mean to you? What role does hope play in your day-to-day life? Is hope simply a desire or is there a more distinct meaning when it is used within the realm of faith? As I listened to the second reading for the Third Sunday of Lent (Cycle A), my mind raced as I realized how much hope has impacted my life. Surely, it is no different for many of you as, together, we face the joys and trials that are so much part of our human experience.
My thoughts quickly turned to what has become a family mantra or motto, so to speak – hope. I have previously used the story of my sister Sue’s untimely stroke at age 43 as an example of how we, as the body of Christ, help one another work through the trials that every human being experiences. On the day of her stroke, my family embraced hope. As time passed, we began to share scripture about hope. Many hope-themed items and wall hangings are part of the décor in Sue’s room. Still today, hope is often a common family topic for discussion. As I thought back to those first days, weeks and months after Sue’s stroke, I now realize that, with the passage of time, hope has a much deeper, spiritual meaning for me.
In the beginning, my family remembered Sue as the most athletic sibling of eight who was fiercely competitive at whatever sport she played. Even though the doctors told us that the base of the brain was the worst possible place to have a brain bleed, we still had hope that she would survive and have a full recovery. In fact, we were just certain that, if anyone could overcome this type of stroke, it would be our fiercely competitive Sue.
While we prayed and leaned on our faith and each other, I believe our definition of hope, in the beginning, was a desire that held within it the expectation of a particular outcome – sort of like “I hope you have a good day.” After several infections and setbacks, she did survive; but our desire and expectation for a full recovery never came to be as we had hoped.
When I heard those words from scripture —“hope does not disappoint”— I realized hope has taken on a deeper, more spiritual meaning for me in the more-than five years since Sue’s stroke. If I look at hope as the desire for and expectation of a particular outcome for Sue, I am surely disappointed and always will be. But, if I see hope through the eyes of faith, I am not disappointed. I “…have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1) because I can see that, through Sue’s redemptive suffering, the Incarnation who died on the cross and gifted us with eternal life in heaven is the reason for hope that does not disappoint. The scripture goes on to say, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6). For me, this act of love is the meaning of hope within the realm of faith.
I now look at Sue through eyes of hope as I watch her do her best to play cards, feed herself and use her iPad. When I see Sue, I see hope. Why? Because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, I know our earthly life is not our final destination. If we cooperate with God’s grace, there is always hope.
As we countdown these final days to the Easter Vigil, I pray that we may all be filled with the eternal hope that does not disappoint.
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.