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Reflection: Saved by Hope

The reflection below was published on June 2 on the blog A Franciscan Journey. In it, the author describes the Christian response to the future.

Rembrandt’s Ascension (Photo courtesy of Palm leaves on Flickr)

We have been celebrating the Easter Mystery these 40-some days: the death and resurrection of Jesus, his ascension to our Father in glory and next Sunday Pentecost or the descent of the Spirit upon the disciples. These are four different aspects of the one Paschal, or Easter, Mystery.

The ascension is Jesus’s final leave-taking so something awesome can happen. Let us take to heart Jesus’s parting words: You will be my witness… to the ends of the earth.” Yes, Jesus leaves to us the mission of continuing God’s work on earth: proclaiming the good news to all.

The ascension connects the Gospel and the book of Acts which heralds the beginning of the Church’s ministry. In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus tells the disciples that they are to proclaim the good news to all people, and that Jesus, gloriously alive, will send the promise of God, the Spirit, so they can continue his saving ministry until he comes again at the end-time to transform this universe into a new, indescribable reality. And then Jesus was taken up into heaven, and the disciples were filled with hope.

Hope is a confident anticipation of something yet to come. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI captured its meaning magnificently in his encyclical, Saved by Hope. This hope looks forward to seeing God as God really is — face-to-face.

Hope looks for the good. Hope discovers what can be done. Hope propels us forward.

History is filled with people of hope. One of my favorites is Helen Keller, who overcame physical obstacles that most of us can’t imagine. Here is a thought of hers that speaks of hope. Helen wrote, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Helen Keller also observed, “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” We too, with a positive can-do spirit, can find a world of possibilities.

Hope points to the future. We are fascinated with the future. What will it be like? We see change everywhere. Some may not like it. But how do we react?

There is only one Christian response to the future: hope. Images of hope weave in and out of the Bible. God by the power of the Spirit transformed the earthly Jesus into a heavenly Jesus. And Christ anticipates God’s future for all of us.

Yes, the universe in which we live has an ultimate purpose. Hope challenges us to do everything we can to usher in the future: always to be in relationship with God and in relationship with one another as compassionate, generous, forgiving and fair human beings. Above all, hope challenges us to reach out to that which alone is of everlasting value—the human person, the image of God, no matter how unkempt the appearance. In the end, all hope will be realized when the risen Christ, by the power of the Spirit, hands over the universe at the end of time to his heavenly Father.

May God fill us with hope this Ascension Day and every day.

Fr. Kevin, a former president of Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., and Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., lives at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla. The previous reflection published in HNP Today, titled “Reflecting on Hope and Resurrection,” was written by Daniel Murray, OFM.

Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic — a holiday, current event, holy day, or other seasonal themes – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at communications@hnp.org. Additional reflections by friars can be found in the Spiritual Resources page of HNP.org.

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