Yet more from Pope Francis’ address to the bishops of Latin America. Hope is a difficult concept for many of us. Faith we often buttress with facts. We convince ourselves that God is real, and we Christians devote much to prove to others, and maybe especially ourselves, that God exists. Love might get confused with infatuation. But sometimes a seed is all God needs to work wonders–even for people outside Christianity there are great examples of love that might shame the timid among us Christians. Hope is difficult. We are given many reasons to shelve it.
A Church able to be a sacrament of hope
Many people decry a certain deficit of hope in today’s Latin America. We cannot take part in their “moaning”, because we possess a hope from on high. We know all too well that the Latin American heart has been taught by hope. As a Brazilian songwriter has said, “hope dances on the tightrope with an umbrella” (João Bosco, O Bêbado e a Equilibrista).
Not an original image with the Holy Father, but one I can see coming from his lips or pen.
Once you think hope is gone, it returns where we least expect it. Our people have learned that no disappointment can crush it. It follows Christ in his meekness, even under the scourge. It knows how to rest and wait for the dawn, trusting in victory, because – deep down – it knows that it does not belong completely to this world.
That unexpected return–certainly the Advent of Christ suggests it. We have to be prepared to look for it in stillness and not shut off the possibilities in our lives.
The Church in these lands is, without a doubt and in a special way, a sacrament of hope. Still, there is a need to watch over how that hope takes concrete shape. The loftier it is, the more it needs to be seen on the faces of those who possess it. In asking you to keep watch over the expression of hope, I would now like to speak of some of its traits that are already visible in the Latin American Church.
A sacrament of hope. What does that mean? Mindful that a sacrament if an encounter with a personal Christ as well as an opportunity for grace, I can see how Pope Francis is encouraging his brother bishops to help shape it in the same way bishops are responsible for teaching and governance. We’ll get more specific in the posts ahead.