Psalm 27.7-8a, 8b-9abc, 13-14 Resp. 13
Job is complaining today about his friends who have come to make his suffering worse. They come with advice about how he ought to handle the sickness. This is very easy to do: to see someone suffering greatly and begin offering advice. Job begs his friends to have mercy on him and leave him alone. Then he declares the reason why their advice is meaningless? “I know that my Redeemer lives”, he says. He is suffering from a serious and painful skin disease, and he says that even if his skin falls off, he will see his God in the flesh. In the midst of his suffering and illness, he has kept his eyes focused on the right place: heaven.
Hope is the virtue that keeps our eyes focused on what really matters, no matter our immediate circumstances. By Faith we believe in God, but hope is the reason this matters to us. Hope, in the darkest pit, turns us to God and gives us a reason for living. Hope takes many forms. Sometimes it surprises us when we least expect it with a glance of heaven. Sometimes it is found in the structure of everyday life, full of gentle reminders that this world is not enough. Without hope we will spend our live trying to build up a pile of money or just wandering from pleasure to pleasure. Happiness can be found in this world in limited doses, but chasing these ephemeral highs is enough to make us forget what really matters. If a person has hope, they remember.
Hope is not merely thinking about heaven. Any time we think about God rather than the mundane, that is hope at work. Every time we look at a homeless person with the eyes of love, that is hope at work. Hope does not take us out of this world, but it does transform what we experience. Temptation is defeated by hope. So many of our sins are simply because we forget that this world is not the only world. Job is a great example of hope: in the midst of his great suffering, he was thinking of God.
Hope is given by God, but, like every virtue, it is strengthened by practice. The more often we think of what really matters, the more often we will think of what really matters. If we spend some time each day focused on God, then, when we need him, we will find our mind naturally going that way.