Pope Francis, upon returning from a trip to the Holy Land last year, was inspired to describe Christian hope as

“our joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming and the fulfillment of his saving plan for the human family.”

He said that, hope goes beyond optimistic desires, as we look to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, since “he makes himself closer to us every day in order to finally bring us to the fullness of his communion and peace.” We are encouraged by Pope Francis’ words, and should ask ourselves this Christmas season whether we have been good witnesses to this hope. Do our inner and outward lives mirror the presence of the Lord and the expectant hope of his return?

The virtue of hope grows out of faith and is a manifestation of love, since by hope, we move towards perfect union with God in heaven who is Love itself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1817). Although our hope is primarily for heaven, our hope also extends to earth, towards spreading the kingdom of God in the here and now to the downtrodden, the poor, the sick, the hungry, those that are dying and the alienated.

For those of you who have generously donated presents to the Giving Tree or turkeys and hams and food items these past 8 weeks have like Christ, brought hope to many households, men, women and children alike. Your efforts have made this world better than it was. The Lord is so close to each of us and we, as the People of God are called to lift high the lamp of hope for the world to see, as a brilliant sign of salvation. May the Lord bless each of you richly this week and: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:12-13)