HOPE!

Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high and looks upon the heavens and the earth below? He raises up the lowly from the dust; he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes, with the princes of his own people.

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of, and hope in, the Lord.

Thank you for joining for this celebration – a day in which the door to the reception of Jesus’ body and blood is opened to Karina and Marianna – a time in which the hope unity with Jesus offers – is made very real to them.

Thank you for joining us on this Back to Church Sunday, a moment in which we revitalize the hope we all have in Jesus.

The Church offers some tough readings and a difficult to understand gospel today. We may puzzle and wonder what that is all about. Recall, we read a gospel about a cheating steward who is getting fired and who then gets commended for more cheating.

Jesus was using a negative example to show that the businessmen of His day were more wise, bold, and forward-thinking in the management of what they had than the people of God were in managing what they had – their hope. Jesus calls on us to pursue the Kingdom of God and its hope with at least the same vigor and zeal that the worldly pursue their profits.

On special days like today we tend to look back at our first communion, our innocence, the joys of the day that perhaps we could not fully comprehend. When I made my first communion it was with a certain fear and trembling made more so by hair that had to be perfect, a back straight, kneeling stiff and straight through the whole Mass, and the thought drummed into my head of the power and glory I was entering into as Christ entered into me. I did not understand until much later the hope I now owned.

Today Karina and Marianna are surrounded by their closest family and friends and the entire family of the Holy Church worldwide. They are made one with all of us in the body and blood of Christ. Most importantly, they share in the hope we have. Know that as you are surrounded today in love, so in receiving Jesus you will always be filled and surrounded by Jesus’ loving presence

By the Eucharist we live in Jesus’ eternal presence. Our, and your hope is in the assurance of Jesus fully present and real to us. We look steadfastly at Jesus and understand inside and out that living in Him gives us forever hope – a confidence that nothing can get in the way; nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus fully in and surrounding us.

Karina, Marianna, all of us receiving Jesus grow here and now in wisdom, boldness, vigor, and zeal for the Kingdom. In receiving Him we are lifted to heaven, seated with the hope filled royalty of the Kingdom.

Hope.

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of hope.

First, let us cover what a promise is. A promise is an assurance that what is said will come to be. I am sure we have been assaulted in our lives by unkept promises, whether the kids forgot to clean up or take out the trash, a seller reneges on a guarantee, or more seriously a promise is broken at a level affecting our relationships.

Every broken promise hurts. Each affects our trust relationships. Assurance seems not so assured. But thanks be, we have a God Who provides promises we can absolutely count on. You see, God cannot lie. God, in His perfection, can only utter truth. As such, when God makes a promise, we have absolute and perfect assurance that His promise will be fulfilled.

God promised to give us hope. But what is hope? Hope is not the kind of wishy-washy thing we engage in day-to-day – I hope I win the lottery, I hope my ship comes in, I hope it doesn’t rain or snow. No, the hope God offers is a certainty about the future. In God’s promises of hope we have certainty that the things He said will come to pass and that impacts our lives in the present. If we know our future, how we live today changes.

Our study guide covers seven areas of hope promised by God. It helps us inspect our lives and see if we are living today as our future portends. The hope promises are these:

Light in the Darkness – Jesus is the Light. He helps us inspect those areas of darkness in us that need His cleansing light.

Renewed Strength – we do not have to struggle – God will come through on our behalf no matter the circumstance.

Hope and a Future – for those loyal to God, who follow His gospel way – our current situations are not our always situation. God has a plan and future waiting for us.

A Full Life and Eternal Life – It is life that is a gift now/today and awaits us eternally. This life cannot be taken away from us unless we allow it. This life was won for us in the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Anything is Possible with God – yes, God has no barriers unless we erect them through unbelief.

God Is Our Firm Anchor – He cannot be moved, and He gives us assurance. Let us be confident in our hope.

This week let us focus on our assured hope.

Seek! Encounter!

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

Early in the morning Mary’s heart would not let her sleep. Her heart broken in the experience of witnessing her beloved Lord and Master’s cruel death called out to her – Go, be with Him. Still dark, she ventured out. Wending her way through the city in the early morning, avoiding the Roman soldiers, Temple guards, and other ne’er-do-wells she headed out to the tomb. On her way there she would look up and see the hill on which He was crucified, the crosses still standing in the dawn’s rising sun. Arriving in the garden near the hill she found the stone removed. Shocked she runs off to tell the apostles. St. Matthew tells us that she saw the angel descend to roll away the stone. He told her to run to the apostles. On the way to the apostles, she encounters Jesus.

We have been called into our own monasteries, our convents, our Sketes. We have been, in a way, in this time of confinement and separation, been called apart from the world and are being asked to encounter Jesus. In the silence of this time, let us anew seek what is above, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. Let us think, ponder, reflect, and lift ourselves up with a focus on what is above. Lifting ourselves to Jesus, let us find hope and more than that – assurance in our encounter with Him.

In facing our current fears, we are closely aligned with how the apostles and Mary felt that morning. Their hearts were broken, and their bodies worn out from grief. And Jesus broke through! He said, I am going before you to Galilee where you will encounter me once again.

Early each morning let us too venture out, out of the things that confine our hope, that break our hearts, that keep our eyes pointed low and down. Let us go to be with our Lord and Master, to sit with Him in prayer. Let us look up to the hill where the cross stands and encounter in it the tree of salvation and freedom. Let us see the tomb empty, knowing that He has risen, knowing that we too are inheritors of that glorious resurrection.

St. Paul calls the people of Colossae and us to a key truth. If we have encountered Christ’s resurrection let us keep our eyes, hearts, thoughts, and spirits focused on Him. The joy of this day is ours forever and nothing can take it from us. It is ours!