By Carmina M. Chapp
Special to The CS&T
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.” (Ps. 39:7)
Imagine the hope that was necessary for that day, the day Jesus was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb. The disciples had hoped for the salvation of Israel and for the whole world. They had no control over what would happen next. The confusion and wonder could have led them to despair. The person in whom they had put all their hope was dead. In whom should they hope now – and for what?
Jesus had told them He would rise from the dead. Did He really mean physically rise from the dead? Perhaps He just meant it metaphorically or spiritually. What would give them the hope that He would rise, that they would see him again?
Nothing like this had ever happened before. David did not rise from the dead to reunite Israel after its downfall. At face value, Jesus had failed. The Romans and the high priests had won. Jesus is dead. They could go on with their lives now.
Having been with Jesus for three years, and having witnessed His power, there is reason for hope. Jesus had prepared them for His rising by raising others from the dead. They had seen His power firsthand. Indeed, He had sent them out to do the same in His name. He had given them a concrete experience then to sustain their hope. They now knew it was possible. Through their personal experience of Jesus, they had confidence that somehow He could and would accomplish His mission.
The hope that was necessary for that day flowed from the disciples’ intimate relationship with Jesus and was fulfilled in the resurrection. Their hope was not in vain.
Hope is only necessary in the face of the unknown. Like that of the disciples, our hope comes from our intimate relationship with Jesus. It is the hope that God’s will be done. God’s will is for us to be united to Him, so our concern is for the salvation of souls. Our hope for this is in Jesus, and we do not hope in vain.
We believe the disciples’ witness to the resurrected Jesus because we have met the glorified Jesus, alive and loving us. Though we did not have the opportunity to follow Jesus in His person on earth, we do have the opportunity to meet Him in His person now in the sacraments, and encounter His ministry through the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church. These all build our hope.
This is the hope we draw from in the face of the unknown. Hope in Jesus is not hope for material things or for something in particular to happen. We do not know how events will unfold, but we have hope in the God who loves us that, when we rely on Him, He will conquer evil and save us from sin through those events, even when those events cause us to suffer.
As we approach Holy Week and the liturgical experience of the passion and death of Jesus, let us be mindful of the hope that was necessary for the disciples on Good Friday and Holy Saturday by recalling the concrete ways that Jesus has shown His love for us. When we look back on our lives, we see so many times that Jesus saved us and helped us, perhaps without our really realizing it. These very personal encounters with Jesus give us hope that He will continue to show us His love, especially in difficult times. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.”
Dr. Carmina M. Chapp is a former director of the Religious Studies spanision of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.