Living with Sure Hope
Humility is a liberating virtue, for it takes away from the soul the burden of any injustice. It gives us the freedom to leave everything in God’s hands and the contentment to be satisfied with His plan in our lives.
Humility is an exhilarating virtue that keeps us from discouragement at the sight of our frailties. It is coupled with Hope in an indissoluble union, and together they bring our souls to great heights of holiness.
The first Christians were not afraid to remember their past. Humility covered it like a blanket. Neither did they fear the future, for Hope lit the way and they were assured the path would lead directly to God.
They knew that Faith, Love, and Grace were gifts from God, and Hope gave them the assurance that the invisible reality was their possession now. They had only to correspond with these gifts and give the Spirit the freedom to work in their lives.
The Father had given them the greatest gift of all — His Son — and He would not refuse them lesser gifts.
The first Christians possessed a tremendous sense of expectation for the glorious gifts reserved for them at the Second Coming and in Heaven. Their Hope gave them the enthusiasm to look forward to His coming with eagerness. Salvation meant the resurrection of the body, the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit, the inheritance of sons of God, the glory of the Kingdom and the eternal embrace of God, their Father.
They knew that in their lives they had already begun this glorious heritage by sharing the greatest gift of all — the Holy Spirit. Unlike the hope in the Old Testament, which was an expectation of something to come, the hope the first Christians possessed made their Heaven begin here and now by the fact that they were the Temples of the Spirit.
Their hope was secure because it was based on God Himself, who gave them His Son. He invited them to go to Him through Jesus. He manifested His love by giving His Son’s life for their Redemption and then releasing the power of His Spirit to fill their hearts.
Their lives were full of the joy of realizing that someday their bodies would rise and Jesus would come again and show the whole world that He was Lord.
It is important to remember that the Hope the first Christians possessed was based on a promise fulfilled. Unlike the Hope of Abraham, who waited for something to come, they saw the promise of the Father made manifest in Jesus. The life of Jesus gave them concrete proof of what lay in store for them.
He was their Hope fulfilled, and so they did not need to be men of desires but men of expectation. Although their eyes had not seen the Glory to come, they did know the Source of that Glory — Jesus. They “felt” His Presence in their souls. They “saw” His Power manifested by great and marvelous works in His Apostles.
His own Spirit spoke to them in the depths of their souls and guided their lives with a loving Providence. They were like children looking to their Father for guidance, love, and protection, and His Presence surrounded them with an abiding sense of expectant Hope.
“Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” Saint Peter told them, “who, in His great Mercy, has given us a new birth as His sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead so that we have a sure Hope, and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled, and never fade away, because it is kept for you in the Heavens” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
“You did not see Him,” Peter told them, “yet you love Him; and still without seeing Him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).
The word “sure” describes what the Apostle expected of the first Christians. Their Hope was not a “waiting” Hope, but a “sure” Hope. It was Faith that made them look forward, but Hope made them sure, positive, and expectant of the possession of God in His Glory.
These Christians looked forward to the Second Coming and to Heaven with a greater enthusiasm than we do for feast days, jubilees, holidays, and Christmas. We look forward to the pleasure and joy of a feast that comes and goes, but they looked forward to that Eternal Banquet that would one day come but never go.
This Hope in them was so great that it brought upon them persecution and distress. Paul told King Agrippa, “And now it is for my Hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors that I am on trial. . . . For that Hope, I am actually put on trial by Jews! Why does it seem incredible to you that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:7-8). “It is on account of the Hope of Israel that I wear this chain” (Acts 28:20).
The Resurrection of Jesus was the foundation of their Hope, and because they were sons of God through Grace, they too would rise from the grave. This realization took away the fear of death. Their souls would enjoy the Beatific Vision, and then on the last day, their mortal bodies would rise and be reunited in a glorious state forever.
It is difficult for most of us, who have been born and raised in the concept of eternal life, to fully realize what it meant to hear and believe this truth for the first time. Their souls would never die — only pass over from one mode of existence to another; they would never cease to be. What a thrill that truth must have been for these new Christians!
“Yes,” Paul told the Roman Governor, “there will be a resurrection of good men and bad men alike” (Acts 24:15). “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus, God will bring them with Him.”
These Christians were so excited over the prospect of rising from the dead as Jesus did that they began to wonder what would happen if they were alive when Jesus came again. When would He come? Would it be soon? Maybe tomorrow?
St. Paul told them at the trumpet of God, the Archangel would call out the command and Jesus would come down with all those who died in Him, and those who were living at that time would “be taken up in the clouds together with those that are risen, and meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
These Christians were curious about time and place. Paul, like Jesus, told them not to expect to know “times and seasons for the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1-2).
They were to live in the “light” and not like those who had no faith and hope. God had enlightened their minds to know with a certainty that He would come again, and like Him, they would rise from the grave. Faith and Love were their shield and Hope their helmet. Their souls were to be united to Jesus in such an intimate way that it would make no difference whether they lived during that glorious coming or not (1 Thess. 5:7-8).
Living with God was to be a “now” experience, and they were to be ready at any time the Master would call. This time of waiting was to be filled with good works and interior change. It was not a time for idle waiting and speculation. They were to give courage to the apprehensive, take care for the weak, and be patient with everyone. Most of all, they were to “pray constantly” by being happy in the Lord, and giving thanks for every detail in their life situation (1 Thess. 5:12, 18).
Art for this post on living with sure hope: Cover of Mother Angelica’s Guide to Practical Holiness used with permission; The Ascension, Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino, early 17th century, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Restored Traditions, used with permission.
For further reading on Christian hope, click HERE.