Wait and Hope
The sum of all human wisdom is summed up in a quote from one of my favorite novels. “Wait and Hope.” The Count of Monte Cristo, a 19th century adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas, is largely about vengeance. But one can ultimately view the overall theme of the novel through the lens of trust. Human justice and desires have limits, and human beings aren’t the agents of Divine Providence. Especially in the midst of great trial and suffering, we are called to trust in God’s timing and God’s will for our lives.
I recently went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with our parish. There were too many memorable moments to count, but the most impactful day was probably the day before we departed. I reflected a lot that day on the Transfiguration and how much I identified with Peter and his reluctance to leave the mountain. It was good for us to be there, to be near in proximity to the birthplace of Christ and where he spent his life on this earth. It was easy for us to live simply, without our normal cares and concerns. But we are called to come down off of the mountain and participate in this life – the good and the bad, the joyful moments and the suffering.
I’ve only been home a couple of weeks, but I’ve already begun to see and feel the fruits of such a prayerful and peaceful trip; the virtue of hope is being placed at the forefront of my life. Hope is the theological virtue by which we place our trust in Christ’s promises. We rely not on our own strength, but on the grace given to us by the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1817) In Romans 8:28, Paul writes: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This is a verse of particular importance to me, as it speaks directly to that summation of human wisdom mentioned in the novel: wait and hope. There are elements of patience, trust, and Divine Providence woven in to Paul’s words. God has a plan, and for those of us that trust in Him and have the patience to courageously endure this life’s sufferings, our reward will one day come.
How do we navigate the times of trial or suffering? We pray and we trust that the Lord is on our side. The Lord will lead us and guide us, provided we spend time communicating with him. And not unlike the development of any other great relationship, this requires two-way communication – both speaking and listening. With God, it comes in the form of prayer and quiet reflection, or spending some time in silence listening with our hearts for God to talk back.
God also gives us the strength to keep going, despite falling repeatedly. I can’t tell you how many times I have failed or fallen. I’ve failed as a wife, as a mother, as a student, as a daughter, as a sister, and as a friend. I have fallen from grace more times than I can count, and I’ve spent many days thinking that I don’t deserve to walk into church. But the one problem that we have is not our concupiscence or our continual falls – it’s our inability or resistance to getting back up and rising again. We are given the great sacramental gift of Reconciliation and we should not be afraid to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness. God always welcomes us back with open arms, just like the parable of the Prodigal Son. Our mistakes are nothing compared to the depth of God’s love for us.
The image of an anchor is one that I love, and it is often times used to represent hope. This can be more apparently understood when meditating on the hymn by St. Bernard, Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea). In this prayer, which is often used to invoke safe passage for travelers, we are summoned to keep our eye on the shining star in the dark sky, eventually leading us safely to shore. In the middle of life’s storms, we are called to keep our eyes fixed on Mary, because it’s through her intercession and clinging to the virtue of hope – an anchor in the stormy sea – that we will find our way to her Son.
The hard part in all of this can be the waiting. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is bestowed on us but also requires practice and prayer. Being patient is definitely not my strong suit. I have children – three of the four are teenagers now – which requires an inordinate amount of patience and trust. A lack of patience can be especially troublesome for those faced with moments of darkness or anxiety. And patience might also mean spending significant time discerning a difficult decision or a life change; there are many ways to look at it. Keeping in mind Paul’s words and our call to trust in God and all his works, we are hopefully better able to practice patience. We must wait by holding on to hope.
Reflection: Read Romans 8:28. Offer up your suffering, your worries, and your anxieties to God and ask for Mary’s help in remaining patient and steadfast in your faith. Think about how God’s plans might be at work in your life, even in the most unexpected ways.