HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED how some of the smallest words in the English vocabulary are the most powerful? Take the word “love” for example. It has only four letters but multiple meanings, ranging from “a strong affection” to “a beloved person,” to even the score of a tennis match.
The meaning of “love” for Catholic Christians points the heart to recall the self-giving sacrificial love of Christ, who came “so that they might have life and have it more abundantly,” (Jn 10:10) and who taught that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) The Passion and death of Jesus are for us the divine example of what love should be for us: a deep, self-giving love.
Another small but deeply meaningful word is “hope.” Hope for us means a trust, a reliance, an expectation or belief in fulfillment that something truly beneficial and good is to come. Hope for us is realized in the promise of Christ, that through his resurrection, he won for us a victory over sin and death, and delivers to us the hope of eternal life with him. This hope gifted to us by Jesus should permeate every fiber of our being, and should be the guiding light of our life on earth.
The meaning of our hope in Christ is laid out for us by the Church in the Mass, the highest form of prayer within the Church. In a particular way, we express gratitude to a loving God for the gift of life during the funeral Mass of the Church when we hear the prayer of the priest, “In him the hope of the blessed resurrection has dawned, that those saddened by the certainty of dying might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling place turns to dust, an eternal dwelling place is made ready for them in heaven.”
Moreover, Jesus reminds us himself of the hope he provides when he speaks to his disciples in the Gospel of St. John, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself so that where I am, you also may be.” (Jn 14:1-3) Our hope is based on Jesus, who is for us the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The words prayed by the priest at the funeral Mass also provide for us a glimpse of what we hope for in the life that is to come from Christ’s victory over death, “There we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory, when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes. For seeing you, our God, as you are, we shall be like you for all the ages and praise you without end, through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.”
As we walk through this season of Lent toward the observation of the sacred Triduum and the joyful experience of Easter, may the hope we have in Christ bring all of us to a conversion of heart and provide a deep resolve that we live lives of self-giving love with a focus on the life that is to come for all who believe in him.