Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday of Advent—9 December A.D. 2012

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Our God is the God of hope—perhaps I should say that He is the God of hope and no change—but we can speak about the importance of eternal permanence at another time; perhaps on that Sunday after Easter when we read Saint James’ beautiful Epistle which speaks of “every perfect gift ... coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”[2]  For today, let us stick to God as the God of Hope.

We must begin by defining hope.  What does it mean to hope, or to have hope?  Well, we know that hope is one of the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.  They are called “theological virtues” because they have God as their proper object—although, sometimes they help us to achieve earthly ends because of God’s dominion over all nature and mankind.  More specifically, “hope is the virtue by which we trust that God ... will, in His mercy, give us eternal happiness and the means to attain it.”[3]

We might ask: Why do we have reason to hope?  The honest man knows that he is a sinner, and knows that he has done very little to expect such a great reward as being happy forever with God.  Even the very religious can do very little of their own to please God—for the most part they must make use of things He has given them.

As Saint Paul suggests, we have hope because of “the comfort of the Scriptures.”  That is to say that we have hope because the Sacred Scriptures portray the many things God has done for us over the centuries that are necessary for our eternal salvation, and the recognition that God does nothing in vain.  From the very moment of the fall of Adam and Eve, God promised to send a redeemer to make things right again—you remember the phrase from what I had to say on the feast of the Immaculate Conception: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.[4]

The Sacred Scriptures are a running account of God’s dealings with His people.  From the physical salvation of a few people on the Ark with Noe, through the covenant with Abraham, through the Exodus from bondage in Egypt, through the captivity in Babylon, God never fails to accompany His people.  He deigns to tell them about Himself to that they may know and love Him;  He gives them His Commandments so that they can live a life pleasing to them;  He accepts their earthly sacrifices as though they were of value to Him.  Even in the Old Testament, as Saint Paul makes clear today, God is the God of all peoples, not just His chosen few:  “Rejoice ye Gentiles with His people.”

Our reason for hope becomes even more clear in the New Testament.  The promised One who would “crush the head of the serpent”—in the Virgin Birth promised by God through the prophet Isaias:  “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel”—after centuries of waiting, that promised One came into the world.[5]  “Emmanuel” is translated “God with us.”

And, with that promised One, Jesus Christ, hope abounds.  He visibly manifests God’s love for His people:  “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  He feeds the hungry in the desert, He forgives the sins of the repentant, He preaches about the kingdom of Heaven, and describes what must be done to get there.

The most hopeful thing of all is that He makes it possible to get there.  The sin of Adam made it impossible for mankind to enjoy eternal life.  All of mankind’s puny treasures rolled together were an inadequate gift to make reparation.  All of the sacrifices offered at the Temple, for all of those years, were but a mere token of the sacrifice necessary to undo the effects of Adam’s sin.  But God, the Son of God, became man and offered the perfect sacrifice on behalf of mankind—He offered the sacrifice of Himself.

We have hope, also, because the Scriptures record that our Lord provided for all the generations of the future by establishing the Sacraments—so that the graces of the Sacrifice of the Cross could be communicated to all believers, regardless of the difficulties imposed by time or place.  The Sacrifice of the Cross itself would be re-presented

“from the rising of the sun even to the going down,” as predicted by the Old Testament Prophet Malachias: “my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.”[6]  (Again note that God’s people are not restricted to any one race.)

In addition to Holy Mass, our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Baptism, so that the hereditary sin of Adam could be removed from the souls of those who believe in Jesus Christ:  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”[7]  The Baptized would receive Jesus Christ Himself in the “clean oblation” of Holy Communion: “I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.[8]  If the Baptized fell from grace, their priests had the power of forgiveness:  “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.[9]

The Scriptures tell us of the other Sacraments that would sanctify the lives and the deaths of the Baptized:  Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction.

So, clearly, the Sacred Scriptures assure us that our God is the God of Hope—we have good reason to “trust that God ... will, in His mercy, give us eternal happiness and the means to attain it.”

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost.”

(Sorry, the internet is down here, so no URLs for this week's citations.)

[1]   Epistle:  Romans xv: 4-13

[2]   James i: 17 (Epistle of the fourth Sunday after Easter).

[3]   Baltimore Catechism #2, Q123.

[4]   Genesis iii: 15.

[5]   Isaias vii: 14.

[6]   Malachias i: 11.

[7]   Mark xvi: 16.

[8]   John vi: 35.

[9]   John xx: 23.

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