Catholic Looking for Hope.

As I typed the words into my Google search, I had to laugh to myself. I sounded like a classified ad in a newspaper. I had planned to get an idea for writing; instead my search results gave me row after row of why Catholics are hopeful. There is no guide that shares how to find true hope when you’re lost in the sea of the world’s problems, daily struggles, and personal battles. With each passing day, a new storm rises up, and I easily focus on the sorrow of war, the frustration of never having enough time, the impatience with myself for once again slipping on that Lenten resolution. Where can I find hope in this mess that is life?

This chaotic search for hope is not new. During the Lenten season, we revisit the story of Moses leading the Israelites through the desert in search of the promised land. The story does not depict a journey of ease. Between being chased by Pharoah’s army and traversing a desert, the Israelites’ grumbling and loss of hope is admittedly relatable (see Exodus 16:2-3). Where is the hope that God’s plan to lead them to the promised land will come to pass?

Even Jesus’ disciples show wavering hope as we approach Easter. As they are faced with the capture and crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples turn inward out of fear. At Jesus’ death, they retreat behind shut doors out of fear (see John 20:19). Here, they are faced with events that did not exactly go according to plan. Just like we are today. Is this man truly the Christ? And can He overcome the obstacles in my life?

In my own life, I have a tendency to look at the negative aspects of myself. I am not a go-getter. I am not wanting to spend my free time doing service. I can’t make all my ideas reality. I become so captured in these negatives that I can’t even begin to consider how Jesus desires to work beyond my limitations. The negative in our world appears to be so very present, and I appear so easily trapped in thinking about my life and the world through the bars of negativity and limits. Where is the hope?

In the face of this struggle is the reality of God. The readings for this weekend recall how exactly Jesus works beyond the impossibility of our messy negatives. The well-known gospel of the woman caught in adultery brings us face-to-face with the mercy of God at work in a space full of negatives. On one hand, we see the woman accused and shamed by her very human mistake. On the other, we see the insistence of the scribes and the Pharisees that this woman does not belong (see John 8:1-11). How does Jesus change the situation and enter into the open space left by the negative? How does our own negative space allow for Jesus to enter into our lives and change the situation?

Here is where I find hope. Not in knowing that the problems I see around me will work out, or that I will someday feel really comfortable talking to strangers, but in knowing that God has done great things for me and continues to work beyond my limitations (see Psalm 126). I have a beautiful opportunity in Lent to admit that I am lacking, but that in the absence of whatever I am lacking there is more and more room for God to continue His creative work in me. How can I allow God into my negative space and overcome what seems impossible?

Hope allows us to reach for more. When I place my hope in the Lord, I might still have fear or uncertainty over myself, but I can trust that God wills the good to happen. When I come to St. John’s, I think about how I can become limit-less through hoping in God and say yes to an act of service at mass, yes to saying hello to a stranger, yes to signing up for a service project. Things might not go quite as I think they should. I can hope, though, that things will go how God desires.

Michelle Schmid
Director of Formation