If you are a person who others see as being optimistic, always full of hope, be assured that many will ask you how you could be so in this world with all of its craziness. If you are a person of hope, there is a reason for that. It is not simply an attitude; it is a virtue. It is something that you have developed in your life as a habit. You do not even think about hope any more, you simply live in it and through it. What is the reason for this? If you are a Christian, you have a ready answer for this question. It is because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we live in a constant state of hope. Hope is the hand of faith reaching out to touch and to heal the wounded world. For a Christian, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Sadly, there are too many who are in danger of losing all hope. The Christian knows that despair is the tool of the Evil One. Hope is the life-giving grace of God.
Peter tells us that when we are asked why we are always so hopeful, we should answer our inquisitor, ʺwith gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.ʺ There are a couple of important points of reflection here. It is a strange fact, but some people will not be happy with our hopefulness. Even when we answer their question gently and treat them with reverence by answering their question with the truth, that it is because of our faith in God that we are hopeful, they will respond to us with anger, or they will ridicule us for our ʺnaivete,ʺ or they will malign our very personhood. But if we still reflect back at them only gentleness and reverence, they may finally be ʺashamedʺ enough to be inwardly converted from their anger, bitterness, and hatred. This kind of behavior on our part can only come by reason of our hope in God’s love, and his unconditional desire to save all of humankind. Our hope is rooted in this knowledge. It is because of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice on the Cross that we have hope, not just for ourselves, but for all of God’s children. It is in this hope that we receive our blessings. ʺBlessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.ʺ (Matthew 5: 11-12)
The passage from Peter’s first letter finishes with these words, ʺFor it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.ʺ That is the centerpiece of this message and of our lives in Christ. Suffering is the reality of this world. Much of our suffering is by reason of circumstances, but most of it is the product ego and the injustices that it produces. But if we have developed the habits of hope that are rooted in our humble faith in God, we will choose more and more often to do the good, even when it means that it will bring suffering to us. When we suffer for doing good, even if the good we do is denied, covered up, or thundered against by others, we will have allowed God’s grace to enter into a situation, and nothing worldly is able to diminish that power. We are, after all, God’s willing instruments in the world. It is never our goodness alone that makes the difference, it is God’s grace that enlivens that goodness which makes all the difference. It is through our openness in faith, and our actions done out of our hope, that God touches the world with his healing grace.
Let us always be ready to give a gentle and respectful explanation for our hope, out of a clear conscience. It is what the world desperately desires, whether it knows it or not.SKM: below-content placeholder