Hope in Lent
This Week’s editorial looks at the REAL hope of the Lenten Season
One of the most fascinating tales in Greek mythology is that of Pandora, the first woman. The gods gave her a box which she was forbidden to open. Curiosity got the better of her and, as she lifted the lid, every ill and calamity that can afflict human life escaped to plague the world and its peoples.
The only item in the box that did not surge out was hope. The human race, in spite of life’s evils and dangers, has clung to hope ever since.
Hope is the desire for something good or better to happen with some expectation of success.
As we plan how best to observe the coming season of Lenten penance, we find that our world assuredly is in need of some hope for better things than the fearsome chaos unfolding around us.
Under present circumstances we are staring at universal corruption, exploitation of peoples and resources, wars, human trafficking, terrorism, religious persecution and whatever else Pandora’s box has unleashed. Can hope survive, hoping against hope?
The human heart will always hope and long for something better to come. There is the will to live, and this presupposes that life is somehow worthwhile, despite everything to the contrary.
South Africans are well aware of the corruption and mismanagement bedevilling our own social and political landscape. But hope has not fled. There is always the desire to put things right, even if this will take a long time.
Now that we are about to observe the season of Lent, we can see this as a good opportunity to put the virtue of hope into practice as a theological virtue, a gift of God together with faith and charity.
The virtue of hope is easily summed up in the invocation repeated in the Angelus prayer: “That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ”.
Christ has promised his Church that there is a resurrection, a new life, and we have the real and strong hope that he will keep his promises.
It does not matter how we decide to do some penance during Lent, but we can make it an expression of our confidence in Christ’s assurances and put our hope in him into action.
This could mean that we do something positive for others. We do not need to preach that Christ’s promises will be finally kept in the next life. We can show our confidence in him in this life in the way we do acts of mercy, kindness and compassion to those in need.
In this week’s issue, Raymond Perrier, in his column Faith and Society, presents a very commendable way of doing our Lenten duties. Instead of “giving up” our little pleasures during Lent in a rather private manner, he proposes that we “give back” to our communities by volunteering to reach out to the needy.
He provides clear and inspiring examples of giving back, which can be demanding but highly fulfilling spiritually. To see the effect of Christ’s compassion and love for others on those who receive it is a magnificent blessing and well worth the effort.
We can never be too generous with our time and energy. God cannot be outdone in generosity and this is very much part of our hope in him.
God knows that there is so much poverty and misery around almost every corner. Not everyone is physically or psychologically capable of mixing among the poor and unfortunate and giving them a helping hand. The bishops’ Lenten Appeal may be one way of showing our hope in Christ when we offer some of our income to support its causes. Prayer and the sacraments, the Mass in particular, are another fine way to keep Lent appropriately.
In his Essay on Man, the poet Alexander Pope wrote the familiar verse: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blest. The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home, rests and expatiates in a life to come”.
While we confidently hope in the life to come, this Lent could be the perfect time to renew our faith, hope and charity and put them into practice in the time and place we find ourselves right now.