This little hand-written ribbon was stuck to a tree near the site of the World Trade Centre in New York, placed there after the terrible atrocity which took place in 2001. I saw it a few years later and photographed it. It is a photograph I look at often, one which seems to inspire me in a way; if people touched by such horror can hold onto hope, then we all must do the same.
The world seems like such a dark place at the moment. The news is filled with interminable stories of desperation and woe. War. Death. Tragedy in so many place and affecting so many people. Natural disasters. It can quickly begin to feel overwhelming and it risks leaving us with a sense of despair.
Our times are indeed dark – there is not really any getting round that conclusion. Certainly, many other moments in history have been dark – but this is perhaps one of the darkest that I have known during my own lifetime.
This morning I read a line from Saint Paul which went some way toward counteracting this feeling. He wrote –
Hope is the looking always toward that which we cannot see and yet in which we believe – a realisation that this present moment does not have the final say and is not the last moment. Other moments, better moments, will follow. Whether we are thinking in regard to our personal present moment or something broader, still the principle remains.
The Catechism tells us that “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.”
So hope is in fact a virtue – and we are called to practice virtue. Consequently, we are to be people filled with hope.
Hope comes from trust and is not self-reliant, but finds it’s strength in Christ and in the grace of the Holy Spirit. That makes hope something very special, something we should treasure and cling onto firmly.
In this present time – as, no doubt, in so many others – hope gives us strength to keep going, regardless of what might be happening within us, around us or in the world globally.
As someone who follows world events closely, I cannot help but conclude the world is currently in great need of hope, since there is so much which has the potential to rob us of it. But as St Paul says, we hope in what we cannot see – and we always set the present against the measure of the eternal future.
And so my gaze will continue to fall upon the stories in the news today, tomorrow and the next day; yet that gaze will not rest there, but on something beyond.