Lenten Reflection Series: Part 3

The Scripture readings for the Third Sunday of Lent speak to us of hope. Hope can be looked at from varied points of view from which we will examine three with an emphasis on the writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his encyclical on hope.


Hope is an an encounter with the modern world. But Christian hope is not a private event, not something isolated to the individual.

When parents bring a child for Baptism, they don’t just do it for social reasons, as an empty ritual, to get gifts for the child or as an occasion to have a party. Parents expect more: “They expect that faith, which includes the physical nature of the Church and her sacraments, will give life to their child—eternal life. Faith is therefore, the substance of hope.” They live, have and experience a faith, and hope, that the child, like the fig tree, will bear fruit.

But this is not done alone nor is it something that simply involves the parents and the child. On a spiritual/liturgical level, the baptism is celebrated within the context of a faith community. And even on a human level, it is celebrated within the context of a community family and friends. These are the people in whom the parents have faith and hope that they will assist in the raising of the child.

Benedict XVI observes That “Hope is not merely a matter of getting somewhere else. Christian hope is not the same as the incremental progress of scientific hope, which is a lesser, albeit good hope. Christian hope, rather, is always about a life that experiences transfiguration, redemption, an entirely, whole new situation.


1. One definition of “alchemy” is a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.

2. Another definition is a power or process of transforming something common into something special.

Hope is not just standing in the darkness wishing that the situation will become better. Christian Hope is when we begin to stand in the dark, looking out into the light.

Hope also involves a decision about what you’re going to do with yourself - and with the current situation. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar, an internationally known inspirational speaker and has published numerous recorded talks and books. He asks the question about “What you will do with your pain now?” “If you don’t transcend it, you will transmit it.” And so there is an alchemy in sorrow. Like a bush that is burning but not consumed, it can be transformed into wisdom which can yet bring a calm peace, contentment, happiness and perhaps even joy. But this only occurs with people who are willing to pay the price. Only those who have been transformed can transform others.


What’s the tie in between a fallen tower and a fig tree? Do we not sometimes feel like those who were crushed by the fallen tower of Siloam? Yet God never gives up on us. He will not let us get cut down. He provides us what we need at a particular time in a particular situation. In some cases he provides fertilizer - personalized nourishment of kind words, of shared meals, of cups of coffee, of conversations of hope, counsel, Confession, prayer.

In some cases he allows us to be cultivated - to break up and breakaway those things that are not providing nourishment in our lives whether they are physical items or relationships or habits that we have developed. In some cases it involves education, new skills, new insights, preparing us for a task that he has called us to fulfill in the future

“Leave it for THIS year” say the gardener. In God’s eyes, its ALWAYS “this year.” We never get to the point where the tree will be cut down.

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