That We Might Have Hope

(Homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year A)

Bottom line: To live our lives, we need hope. To encourage our young people, we need to be able to explain our hope.

Our Holy Father has given us an early Christmas present. He has written an encyclical letter titled "Spe Salvi" - in hope we are saved. (Rom 8:24) We live in a world of so much hopelessness, despair and depression. It is important to ask what is the basis for our hope. Why do we hope?

People can use the word hope in a lot of different ways: "I hope that I get a certain gift for Christmas. I hope that my candidate wins the election. I hope that scientists will find a cure for Alzheimers." We all have different hopes, but what does it mean to have Christian hope?

Pope Benedict uses a striking example to illustrate the meaning of Christian hope. He tells about an African girl named Josephine Bahkita. When she was about nine years old, slave traders kidnapped her and sold her in the slave markets of Sudan. The wife of a general bought her and treated her cruelly. She was flogged so often that for her entire life she had 144 scars on her body. Eventually an Italian merchant bought her and she found herself in a family that treated her kindly - and introduced her to the God of Jesus Christ. She discovered what it means to be a free child of God. She said, “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me - I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” This, says Pope Benedict, is Christian hope. It is not just the thought that things might get better - but that no matter what happens, a person knows that God loves him - and that God awaits him.

We are so used to hearing that God loves us that it doesn't register anymore. "OK, God loves me. That's nice. What's on TV?" The romantic misadventures of the famous interest us more than the romance that endures. That was not the case for Josephine Bahkita. She went from being unloved, a mere commodity, to the realization that she was loved in a radical and definitive way.

You may wonder what happened to her after this realization. On December 8, 1896, Josephine Bahkita took vows as religious sister. For the next fifty years she served various roles in her community. She became known for her gentleness, calming voice and ever-present smile. The mother superior noticed her sanctity and instructed her to write about her experiences. She began giving talks which made her famous throughout Italy.

Sickness and pain racked her final years. The extremity of her last days drew her mind back to the years of slavery. In her delirium she cried out, "Please, loosen the chains...they are so heavy." God did free her from her chains. She met the Love that awaited her. On February 8, 1947 Josephine Bahkita gave herself into the hands of God. Calls for her canonization began immediately. In 1992 Pope John Paul declared her Blessed and in the year 2000, he canonized her. A modern African saint, Josephine Bahkita illustrates the depths of Christian hope - and how Christian hope can transform a person's life.

St. Paul tells us today that everything in the Bible was written so that we might have hope. By hope we become new men and women. In hope we are saved. This Advent I am determined to set aside time, not only to read the Pope's encyclical on hope, but to spend time reflecting and praying about his message. To live our lives, we need hope. To encourage our young people, we need to be able to explain our hope. How beautiful it would be if we could appreciate the experience of St. Josephine Bahkita: "I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me - I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good."


From Archives (Second Sunday of Advent, Year A):

2010: Silence, Sin, Spirit
2007: That We Might Have Hope
2004: The Leopard, the Lion and the Wolf
2001: Change Your Life!
1998: Holy Spirit and Fire

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Homily for Anniversary Mass of Deputy Steve Cox

Bulletin (Johnny Cash - "Too often we forget to thank you, Mary"; Golden Compass - Materialist Magician; Patroness of the Unborn)


The Curt Jester asks:

The actors involved have made all kinds of statements on how the movie is not anti-Catholic. I would like to hear one interviewer asking them if the novels are? If someone did a movie adaptation of The Protocols of The Elders of Zion and then said they toned down the anti-Semitic parts of it would they get away with this?

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made with love by beautiful people in Whatcom County

Christmas gift suggestion: Catholicism at a Glance by Fr. Raymond Cleaveland

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Fr. Michael Kerper in America magazine describes his experience of celebrating John XXIII Mass:

As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.” The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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