The Birth of Hope
The Pentecost event was the birth of the Church. It was also the birth of faith, hope, and love in a new way. When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, Mary, and the 120 gathered in the Upper Room, the outpouring enlivened their souls and gave them all that they needed to help spread the message of Jesus’ love to the world as they had been instructed. The joy which accompanied that outpouring was beyond description as all of them came out of hiding, and in an extremely public way, began to proclaim the Good News in the very Temple area where Jesus was put on trial by the Sanhedrin and whisked away to His death at the hands of the Romans. The courage it took to come forth there was not even a thought for them, because the Holy Spirit supplied everything they needed in order to begin the ministry to which they were called. We can say that faith, hope, and love were born anew that day because 3,000 people cried out for baptism upon witnessing the Holy Spirit falling upon the apostles. It is at baptism that we receive these gifts. Therefore, as the group of believers went from 120 to over 3,000, the new Church was born, centered upon Jesus and empowered by the joy of redemption, salvation, and everything that Jesus had promised, all of which are based upon hope.
Everyone who has entered into and risen out of the waters of baptism receives the incredible power of the gifts of faith, hope, and love. Much is said of faith and love, but hope is what has touched me when reflecting on Pentecost this year. It was hope that empowered the apostles to dedicate their lives to the ministry of sharing the Good News. Without hope in the presence of Jesus and in His message they would never have been able to go forth immediately into the same world which had been so hostile to Him, knowing they would be able to reach out to many. They knew that all He had promised had been fulfilled in His death and resurrection, and they understood that they had much work to do in building up the Body of Christ. It is this same hope with which we are empowered, and therefore we need to call upon it as we seek to grow in holiness and to share the Good News with all who we encounter. Our call is no different than that of the apostles and therefore we have been given the same gifts.
In order to really appreciate the power of hope released at Pentecost, let us focus on the experience of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was with Jesus from the time of His conception, through His birth and childhood and into manhood. She loved Him and knew Him in a way no one else in this world ever could because only she was His mother. She had to let Him go when He embraced the mission of the dangerous life for which He came, the life of mercy and compassion in sharing the message of His Father. Mary observed His ministry in a world hostile to His message: Jesus taught and lived love, a love which flew in the face of hatred, illness, and lack of mercy. It flew in the face of the legalism of the Pharisees who could only see things one way, and who tried to draw many into league with them as enemies of Jesus. Mary watched as her Son was arrested, tried as a criminal, and punished in the most humiliating and public way by crucifixion. He was completely naked and alone, without any of His friends present, save His mother, one apostle and some brave women. For Mary the sorrow had to be nearly unbearable.
However, though Scripture does not report it there is a long held tradition that Mary was visited by Jesus immediately after His resurrection. Mary was the one who loved Him as unconditionally as He loved her; she had said yes to whatever God asked of her, something very costly to her own heart. The joy of that meeting must have been indescribable! However, in reflecting upon the Ascension and Pentecost I realized something no one ever talks about: even with the joy of seeing Him risen, Mary had to let go of Jesus yet again when He ascended. She would have to wait the rest of her lifetime to see Him again, just as any mother who loses a son or daughter, or anyone who has lost a loved one, has to wait until they are also called home to God before they will ever see that loved one again. Just as you and I have to wait to see Jesus until we die, and just as we have to wait to be reunited with the loves of our life, Mary had to wait for her own death in order to be reunited with her Son, too. Even after the joy of Pentecost, Mary had to rely on what He had promised. In all the years of the remainder of her life, there must have been a hole in her heart, so to speak, a longing to be reunited with her beloved Son who also happened to be her Lord. When Jesus said to the apostles, “I will be with you until the end of time,” He said it to each and every one of us. (Matthew 28:20) And so like Mary, and like His friends the apostles, we need to rely on the gift of hope in order to cope with the emptiness we feel when a loved one has passed away and gone before us, or the grief we feel whenever there is a loss in this life. The gift of hope is what sustained Mary and the apostles, it is what sustained the new Church as it was bruised and battered by the forces of their first century enemies, and it will sustain us as well.
Faith, hope, and love come together for a reason, as they are intertwined in how they work. First, hope accompanies our faith. Faith helps us to believe that of which we have no proof but which we trust in our hearts. Hope is the acceptance of what our faith tells us. Hope is what helps us enter into pain and which keeps us from being overwhelmed by that which we suffer. Hope brings us joy when we realize that we are never alone because Jesus is with us and it gives us a way to focus on that which He promised, that we might hold fast to it as true. This same hope helps us to know our beloved dead are also present to us, nearer, in fact, than ever before. Hope helps us to know that they have already seen what we long to see and that they have already experienced the love of God beyond all telling for which we yearn so desperately.
Hope also gives rise to compassion and mercy. If faith and love are hope’s sisters, so to speak, mercy and compassion are hope’s children. With hope our hearts are softened because we know that all will be made right by God in the end. Hope helps us to let our hearts be stretched so that we can look at the sorrows of our lives and not be moved to hatred, retaliation, or the refusal to forgive, but rather to mercy and compassion because we know we have needed mercy and compassion, too. Mercy and compassion teach us to recognize that all of us are wounded and in need of healing and therefore, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” The compassion born of hope helps us to be moved not just to share sorrow, but also to share great joy when we recognize the gifts of love we have been given through our friends and family. Hope, mercy, and compassion move us to acceptance and to gratitude.
Just as Mary and the apostles were bathed in the grace and power of God at Pentecost, so too are we. Pentecost is the great gift of the love of God to us. As the Holy Spirit fell afresh on those who were gathered, they were overwhelmed with gifts and with a joy they could not contain. Sharing these gifts and the gifts that come with baptism was their response. They could not contain it. Therefore let us recognize that after Pentecost when the joy fades due to our humanness and the challenges begin to settle in, we have great gifts to which we can turn namely faith, hope, and love. Let us turn to the Holy Spirit and let hope be born afresh as on that first Pentecost, that it may continue to change the world even if one heart at a time.
May we cling to the hope we have been given as we yearn with Mary and the apostles for the day when we are all reunited in the Kingdom of Heaven and every tear is wiped away! May we allow hope to give rise to mercy and compassion so we may not only persevere, but that we can share what we have been given with the despairing, the hurting, the forgotten, and even the angry who themselves show little mercy! May we live with joy what Jesus taught us and what the Holy Spirit has enlivened in us! And may we share the gift of Hope which was born anew on Pentecost! Let us continue to meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
(This is dedicated to Sally, Kristina, Kevin, Jenna, and of course, to Jeff.)
The first photo is mine. It is some stained glass depicting the Pentecost event and it is found in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
The two icons which follow are the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is Mother of Holy Hope and it can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/292-mother-of-holy-hope
The second icon is called The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother and it can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/56-the-risen-christ-appears-to-his-mother
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Heart Speaks to Heart