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September 30 2013 09:00 | Church of Saint Callistus

“Don’t let them steal your hope”: Christians in the contemporary world

Johan Jozef Bonny

Catholic Bishop, Belgium

1. Hope as trusting promises

•  ‘hope’ is more than looking forward to “something” I’m dreaming of;
•  ‘hope’ grows as trusting the promises “someone” has made to you (the promises made by my doctor, friend, partner, children, society, Church,…) (to betray someone’s trust);
•  my ‘hope’ is conditioned by the reliability of the person(s) who made a promise to me;
•  the Bible:  a book full of promises( God’s promises to Noah, Abraham, Moses, prophets, Jesus...);
•  “I hope” is twins with “I believe”  (1 Petr 3.15: an account of the hope that is in you);
•  the fading away of ‘hope’ as a consequence of the fading away of ‘faith’   
2.  Hope: horizontal and vertical line
•  since the 19th century: breakthrough of a historical view on the world and mankind  (theory of evolution; Darwin;Teilhard de Chardin);  hope in a chronological perspective: the promises of history (‘marching together towards a new world’;  generates optimism, trust, perspective, solidarity);
•  the notion of ‘kingdom of God’ was largely understood along that historical line;
•  however: in the 20th century hundreds of millions of people were sacrificed on the altar of utopian ideologies;  even more millions were excluded from the realization of any promises of a better future;  along the lines of history there was nothing better for them to get;
•  too large parts of humanity only have the ‘vertical line’ of hope;  is there a God who sees and knows me, on whom I can put my trust?;  is there a God who -right through the horizontal line of history- can guarantee that eventually justice will reign also for me?;
•  the ‘kingdom of God’ is not only about the ‘horizontal line’ of time and history;  it is also about the ‘vertical line’of salvation that allies God with persons and peoples of all times  (and who only have God in whom to trust)
3.  Hope and the beatitudes
•  Catechism of the Catholic Church, nr. 1820:  Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the "hope that does not disappoint.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.  (Mt 5,1-12)
•  context of all times:  disciples of Jesus (or ‘people of good will’) living in situations of pain, distress and deficiency (freely chosen or not);
•  the promised ‘happiness’ is not close at hand;  it resembles a rainbow raising against a dark horizon, while the rain shower slowly fades away and the sun returns shining;
•  around the beatitudes Jesus gathers people into a new community;  that new community is as ‘leaven in the dough”; it is ‘pregnant’ of a new world and humanity;
•  how to give new hope to this world?   by fostering the building of communities living the spirit of the beatitudes.
+ Johan Bonny
Bishop of Antwerp (Belgium)

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