January 29: Advancing Along the Paths of Hope

We know all too well that the COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered the way we live – here and all over the world. If we look back to February and March of last year, we might remember the first signs of spring, normally a season of new beginnings. Instead, we saw health workers struggling to control the outbreak and a spirit of anxiety which stretched far and wide. Eventually we saw countries shutting their borders, entering into shutdowns and lockdowns. Travel, work, and production ground to a halt. Many, if not all of us, were confined to our homes and, while we grieved for our many losses, including the lives lost and the pain of isolation, silently but surely, nature was renewing. Let’s not forget that.

For a brief period, skies in major metropolitan areas regained their wondrous blue. Air quality improved drastically and hidden urban diversity had a chance to flourish. Greenhouse gas emissions fell significantly. There were signs of hope. For example, that creation could rebound if we give it a chance. It is important to cling to this kind of hope. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that humanity has not lost the ability to hope and to adapt, to change for the better. We have learned that we don’t have to consume or commute as much. We have identified anew where our priorities ought to be – equity of access, harmonizing with the natural world, valuing our relationships, serving one another.

As the old hymn says, “The Spirit is a-movin’— all over.” So let us harness the Spirit’s power of renewal. Let us be watchful and on guard, as Jesus exhorts us in the Gospels, so that we do not fall back into our old ways which brought the earth and ourselves to near peril in the first place. The path is difficult, but we draw strength from hope for decisive action.

Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter Fratelli Tutti, states: “Despite these dark clouds, which may not be ignored, I would like to take up and discuss many new paths of hope… I invite everyone to renewed hope, for hope ‘speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning.’ Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love. Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can make life more beautiful and worthwhile. Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope.”

We are a people of hope, and we carry this hope in our hearts wherever we go. Be mindful of this hope as you see the first crocuses emerge from the ground these days.


Friday Bonus: The Alexander Pope poem “An Essay on Man” (written in 1732) includes the line, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be blest.” It is an affirmative poem of faith. So, when life seems to be chaotic and confusing to us, especially after we mistakenly place ourselves at the center of it, we need to be reminded that everything is really divinely ordered – God is the One who is at the center of everything. Our limited intelligence can only take in tiny portions of this “order” and we can experience only partial truths, hence we must rely on hope, which then leads into faith. We are invited to be aware of God’s existence and His presence at the center. We are also invited to bring what we can, each day, to cooperate with His plan. It is no less than our duty to strive to be good, regardless.


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