A recent poll shows that, among religious groups, 60 percent of American Catholics think America’s best days are yet to come - in sharp contrast to 40 percent of Protestants and 49% of all Americans. There is something about being Catholic that imbues us with a positive sense of the future and hope for better things to come.
Especially as we celebrate the liturgies of Advent and Christmas, the words of the Mass speak of the Incarnation as a beacon of hope. Jesus was born a human being to show us the unfailing love of the Father, give us the promise of his presence and ultimately, victory over death. Our worship is filled with the confidence which led the Apostle Paul to write: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).
As Catholics, we believe the promises of Jesus - and in a future in which we “will see the goodness of God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). This belief in essential goodness, in the mystery of the immediate presence of God’s unfailing grace in everyday life, is part of our identity as Catholics. It is one of the greatest gifts the Church has to offer to people in a culture of violence and uncertainty - something that more Catholics (that 40% with the negative outlook) need to realize that our faith offers.
So, how do we evangelize with hope? Here are a few suggestions:
Most of all, pray often, read Scripture, receive the Eucharist regularly and seek a closer walk with Jesus. It is in knowing Jesus, and that he is the embodiment of Paschal Mystery - the sure proof that good will overcome evil - that you will be most open to receiving his gift of hope and sharing it with the world.
Joyce Donahue is an Associate in the Diocese of Joliet Religious Education Office. A former parish DRE and liturgy director, she writes for Ministry & Liturgy magazine, blogs at Liturgy and Catechesis Shall Kiss and maintains The Liturgical Catechist website.