“He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.”
Our hope is in God. Our hope is our vision: it gives direction and purpose to our lives in relationship with our loving God. Unexpectedly, God also hopes in us; waits for us; anticipates our coming to him. Our hope. God’s hope. Is there something more?
Jesus came into the world, born of the Virgin, to be our hope. He was the light for all to see. In the midst of darkness, he shows us what real love is. He drives shadows from our hearts by revealing God’s boundless forgiveness and mercy. More than just a solitary path, he has gone out to the highways and byways, calling all to the kingdom. With the Father, he has sent us, his body the church, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Our hope. God’s hope. Is there something more? Yes. The gift of the Spirit calls each of us to be hope for others. Like John the Baptist, we are not the light, but we are called to give witness to the light, to share our hope. Jesus is the anointed one, but we, too, are anointed by chrism and the Holy Spirit, as Christ’s body, to bring the good news. While certainly prefiguring Jesus, the messiah, the first reading also now applies to us:
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.”
We move from just having hope to being hope. The hope we have received, we must freely give. It’s true, as Fr. Ron Knott says, “You can’t give what you ain’t got.” We need to encounter the unlimited love and grace of God in Jesus. That encounter is life transforming and leads us to love our sisters and brothers as God has loved us.
If you’re like me (God help you!), this kind of language may conjure images of heroic sacrifice: great deeds done for God no matter the personal cost. As Saint Teresa of Kolkata and, especially, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux have shown us, however, it is not how big or great our deeds are for God that matters, but how much love we put into every deed. Even the smallest act of kindness or love can be of eternal significance.
Perhaps, that’s what the world needs most now: not the grand sacrifice, but the small act of love. The dignity given to the homeless by a look and a word. Generosity and acceptance in a Facebook post. Forgiveness around the dining room table. Welcome to the stranger. Prayers for the sick and grieving. Letting someone into your lane on the expressway. A phone call to a friend. A meal for a neighbor. A visit to the nursing home. A gift that shows someone they’re not forgotten. Can you think of more? Hope can be a spotlight or a single gentle candle flame. How will you be hope for others?