Almost twenty years ago Pope John Paul II proposed a three year period of preparation for the millennium.  His suggestion for the year 1998 was to focus on the Spirit and on hope.  The need to focus on hope seems no less important today. Both in his Apostolic Letter, On the Coming of the Third Millennium, and in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II offered a compelling vision of Hope.

Those writings show hope is not a shallow optimism based on temperament or some transitory favorable event. The Pope had personal experience of the devastation of World War II.  He knows the horrors of the Holocaust and the more recent tragedies     of Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and other instances of great human suffering.  He knows the violence, the poverty, the human tragedies we hear of every day can easily lead to pessimism, if not to despair.

For John Paul II hope is that Christian virtue which is based on a deep faith in Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death.  For the Christian, hoping is not just believing in the possible.  It is conviction about what is sure.  Christian hoping is certainty that what God has promised he will certainly provide.  St. Paul calls it “a hope that never disappoints.” (Rom. 5: 5)  The Letter to the Hebrews describes hope as “ a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” (6: 10)

Hope is the indispensable dynamic of faith and love.  Because we are pilgrims and do not see God and do not yet share his love completely and definitively, our faith and our love need to be permeated with hope.

Some years ago the works of a Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, were very popular. The major reason for that was the image of hope for the world he offered, an image that emphasized the goodness and beauty of the world and of its evolution toward a state of perfection.  It was a view that resonated strongly with the aspirations of people. Teilhard was fond of saying: “The world belomgs to those who offer it the greater hope.”

In our contemporary world it is vital to give witness to our hope.  We need to show how our hope gives us the strength and the courage to face the inevitable difficulties and trials of life.  We need to show as the prophet Isaiah says; “…those who hope in Yahweh renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles.  They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”  (Is. 40: 31)