“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Thus the two disciples expressed their disappointment on the way to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday.
Two deflated travellers walked towards a future without meaning or purpose. They had lost all hope. Only in the breaking of the bread did they recognise the Risen One and at the same moment they were given the divine gift of hope. Of course, they had “not yet” achieved final salvation, but now they saw the future clearly. Filled with hope, they now possessed the sure and firm anchor of their souls, and could safely set sail to heaven. The French poet Charles Péguy describes Hope as like a little girl, almost unnoticed as she trips between her two big sisters, Faith and Love – yet it is this little one who carries everything with her. “Faith sees only what is. But Hope sees what will be. Love addresses itself only to what is. But Hope sees what will be. Hope cannot be understood on its own. Faith is simple, and not to believe would be impossible. Love is simple, and not to love would be impossible. But to be able to hope – that is the difficult thing.” Many Christians survive suffering, imprisonment and torture, only through hope. This is not an escape from reality or taking consolation in the life to come, but a supernatural force that is directed unerringly towards the blessing and salvation of the world. Christian hope gives true meaning and direction to the here and now. Freedom, philosophy, progress – all these cannot eliminate poverty and suffering in this world. But we can accomplish more than we think if, through the Resurrection of Jesus, the hope of salvation remains alive in us. In his encyclical letter Spe Salvi Pope Benedict XVI enumerates three essential ways by which we learn hope. The first is through prayer. For prayer, in its original sense of entreaty, is nothing else but the voice of one who hopes. The second way is in someone’s sincere and righteous actions carried out every day, even in the face of apparent failure, obstacles or impotence when they are confronted with the overwhelming powers of evil. The third way is in bearing and sharing in another’s suffering. Of course we must always strive to minimise suffering, but God alone can ultimately overcome it. Our hope is deepened the more we unite ourselves with him in suffering, embrace it and “offer it up” in order to overcome the world’s sin and evil which are the sources of suffering. Dear friends, we are all called to be witnesses to hope. Through our prayer, our good deeds and our sharing in the sufferings of others, let us strive to be a source of Easter hope for those afflicted by poverty and suffering.
My grateful blessing on you all,
Fr Martin Maria Barta
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a foundation of the Holy See, was promoted by Pope Pius XII and founded by P. Werenfried van Straaten in 1947, to pastorally help the Church in need or those suffering persecution throughout the world. It develops more than 5,000 projects per year in more than 140 countries throughout the world including the building or rebuilding of churches, support for vocations, means of transportation, editing of catechetical material and emergency help for the displaced. ACN seeks to promote prayer, inform and be a source of charity for the poor in the Church and those persecuted throughout the world.
Aid to the Church in Need is author and editor of the Blog "Witnesses of Hope", which can be found on the website www.familiesfullyalive.com