Teen Hope

TEEN HOPE REVISITED

Once again, this weekend, I had the privilege of being involved in a confirmation retreat from a local parish. Due to the pandemic, we had to conduct the entire retreat outside, which was no problem given our location in Southern California. The weather was beautiful, and the teens were pleased to be out in nature and not locked in a classroom or a fixed gaze to a computer screen.

As this was their main confirmation retreat, we wanted to look inward rather than outward for inspiration. Each time I am involved with confirmation candidates, I see how much easier it is for a young mind to make deep connections with God by a redirect of their focus towards the inner life.

One monk who has done a great deal of helping countless retreat leaders in this journey is Fr. Thomas Keating. His book Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit helps us all, teens, in particular, see the importance of the inner life. He keeps the principles simple. One of which is that many in the world see God being absent in the world, particularly in their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth, but nevertheless, he challenges us to recognize this fact as a barrier to entry into the spiritual journey. He then further states the obvious, God is not absent but present. God is not near us, God is within us.

Keating reminds us that God is not just present but also very active. That the divine, as well as the human, dwells within us all. Fr. Thomas refers to this as the Divine Indwelling. We don’t have to go anywhere to find God; to get closer to God. Elvis (or, in this case, God) has not left the building. And yet, he explains how much of our lives focuses on the issue of trying to find God.

Even worse, he decries the activity of praying when we don’t believe that God is listening. All of this brings us to a place where our belief in the “Divine Indwelling” is crucial for our faith journey. Much of our rocky moments, particularly rocky faith moments, can be put down to believing God is absent or not within us.

As scripture tells us in so many places, God is Always with us (Mt 28:20); we can be assured this is true, but that does not always mean we accept it. Accepting God, the God within in, the parts of us made in his image, the Divine Indwelling, is perhaps the most essential first stage in our spiritual journey. It is always the point of return when we get off track. The Holy Spirit activates this Divine Indwelling, particularly with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Even when unrecognized by ourselves, providing these gifts activates the Holy Longing, the desire for God which we all have in our core. Let us begin the New Year remembering a line from the Baltimore Catechism which can bring us back where we should be:

Why did God Make Me: To know Him, Love Him and Serve Him.

God Bless. Mike

Hopes and Wishes

Recently, while leading a retreat on Hope, someone gave great insight into the issue of hope. Rather, the topics of wishes and hope.

It seems today, more than ever, we replace the word wish with hope in our everyday language. I hope you pass that examination successfully; I hope you get that new job, I hope I get a promotion at work, you get the idea. Many of these “hopes” are, in reality, just wishes. So what is the difference between the two? For many, at least in a secular, everyday sense, there is little or no difference. The word hope has sort of lost its theological meaning, which is, it is a virtue and gift from God. Turning inward towards ourselves, many of us use the word which represents something compelling, into just a daily litany of requests for myself or others close by me.

One way I differentiate wishes from hope in this way is to consider wishes like butterflies. These are landing from one spot to another, many occurring during a day, week, or month. Some may be more meaningful than others, but they fall into a category of continuing requests, which seem to have little to do with God and the virtue of hope.

On the other hand, Hope is a gift that we cannot see; it is a permanent presence of an expectation of God’s action in our lives, even when we least expect it. Hope is there for us, perhaps not to see, but rather to feel. It is knowing that God is there for us. Providing us with a confidence which does not reside in our minds but instead emanating from our soul. This gift, which is not of our doing, is directly transmitted to our heart from our soul, thereby giving us this peace-filled confidence He will be there for us. Always. And when it matters most.

Perhaps this week, we can consider the gift of hope. It is a gift freely given to us, and how we can appreciate it without tying it to a bundle of our personal needs. Instead, it is there to give us innate confidence that God will always be there for us; regardless of the circumstances and conditions. All we have to do it have an open heart and an expectation. An expectation best expressed by the mystic Julian of Norwich when she said. “All will be well, all manner of things will be well.”

Hope


Hope. We are here just after Easter, and one of the things I have always felt about Easter is the feeling of Hope. I was watching a lecture on YouTube recently delivered at Boston College by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser. During the lecture, he raised several points about Hope that helped me with my personal confusion on the matter of Hope.

I guess because so often we, or others, use the word Hope in a non-theological sense. Fr. Rolheiser used the example of someone using the word Hope to express their “hope” to win the lottery. This example is not hoping at all. It purely expresses desire—our need for something. We could replace the word Hope in this sentence and change it to “want to win the lottery.” It represents a personal desire that has little to do with God or the kingdom of Heaven.

Another misuse of the word Hope is the case of optimism. I am “hopeful” that this will turn out well. Again Fr. Ronald puts us right. Being optimistic may have nothing to do with the theological virtue of Hope.

So then, what is Hope? Hope is the confidence and knowledge that God will provide the solution we need. We do not need our agenda to press God for Hope. In fact, we can have the confidence that God delivers on His promises, particularly after Easter. The resurrection should be the only proof we need of promise-keeping. Ever!

Hope is there in scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. In Hebrew, the word means expectation—and it also means cord or rope, which comes from a root word that means to bind or to wait for or upon. I love this explanation. We expect, in confidence, that we will ultimately be in union with God in Heaven. The word also means rope ties us firmly, so we are not just aimlessly drifting when we accept this gift.

Perhaps that’s is the key for me; if we accept the gift of Hope, then we remove some of our own needs and desires from it. Instead, we leave it to God to give the gift to us: all we have to do is accept it.

How do you view Hope in your life?

clip_image002

A Perspective of Hope

 


HOPE

Hope is an unseen rope,

Tying us invisibly to the one we are connected,

Or want to me.

Unseen, the will cannot force hope,

Turning it only to desire,

Or some outward fakeness,

Better known as optimism.

Tying us in the final days of a spiritual journey,

Hope IS the connection we need,

Unsaid confidence,

Unwritten agendas of worldly desires are cast off.

Leaving only, union with God,

Who is the One pulling us effortlessly home.