In preparation for the Easter Triduum ( Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) our community made a retreat. The priest giving the retreat struck a cord in me when he spoke of the theological virtue of Hope. He remarked that it was his experience that very few people place as much emphasis on Hope as they do on the other two theological virtues, Faith and Love. This was true for me because I had seldom prayed for a greater Hope and yet Hope allows us to gather the vitality and energy we need to live out the Gospel. According to Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spe Salvi, says that our Christian Hope is what helps us face the present, “even if it is arduous.” Hence amidst the seeming darkness and despair of our present moments our supernatural sense of Hope as Christians can help us keep aglow with the Spirit and so not be discouraged to live out the Gospel.
This reflection on Hope is fitting in light of this Sunday’s feast of St. Peter and St. Paul because both men are witnesses of Hope. Their Hope in a Lord who has conquered sin and death, gave them the energy to overcome all temptations to despair and mediocrity. While these Apostles faced persecutions and the difficulties of the early Christian communities, it was to their faith and hope in Jesus that they looked for the hope-filled courage to keep going. Ultimately, they trusted in His grace, despite their weaknesses and failings. They knew the Lord’s heart, they knew he thirsted for their conversion and union with Him. Therefore, they had certain reasons to remain Hopeful.
In the Gospel this Sunday, in the wake of St. Peter’s confession of faith, the Lord affirms his faith with a truth that will become for St. Peter a pillar of his Hope,“ The gates of the underworld can never hold out against” the Church (Matt 16: 17). St. Peter knows then that when the going gets tough, the Lord will always be at his side. However, this is not only a great consolation for the first Pope but for us all especially in times when we see what appears to be a crisis surrounding our lives and the Church. History has shown that the Church, always under attack either from without or within, always reforms herself in the image of her Lord. It is important that our Hope be grounded on this fact. In addition, since we are members of the Church it also means that if we cooperate with Christ, his grace will triumph in us always reforming and purifying us.
Gospel for this Sunday’s feast of St. Peter and St. Paul MT 16:13-19