by Ken Rolheiser
Lent and hope and attentive waiting

When we abandon our beliefs we abandon ourselves.  Matthew Kelly

Do we remember the answers to life’s greatest struggles? Do we remember hope and patience? Are we working for the kingdom to come? Are we near the end time when all the earth will hear the Gospel?

Jesus taught, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

A Christian, certain in his faith that one day Our Lord will come again in triumph, should welcome each day of life with “gratitude and wonder,” Pope Francis said at his general audience October 11, 2017. He dedicated this reflection to the element of hope described as “attentive waiting.”

What is it in our lives that fills us with thoughts of boredom, hopelessness or even despair? I would guess it has to do with sin and the prospect of suffering.

“Attentive waiting and patience are two characteristics” of those who have found Jesus in the here and now, Pope Francis said in his October address. “A Christian isn’t made for boredom; if anything, [he’s made] for patience,” Francis reflected, saying that “even in the monotony of certain days” the Christian knows that “a mystery of grace is hidden.”

“Nothing happens in vain,” he assured, “and no situation in which a Christian finds himself is completely unresponsive to love. No night is so long that it makes us forget the joy of the dawn. And the darker the night is, the closer the dawn.”

Francis proposed that “even if the entire world were to preach against hope, if it were to say that the future will only bring dark clouds, the Christian knows that, in that same future, there is Christ’s return. …there is the Merciful Jesus.” It is enough so we can trust and not curse life.

St Francis de Sales said, “God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them [sufferings]. He has guided and guarded you this far in life. Do you but hold fast to His hand, and he will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you lovingly in his arms.”

So what do we have to fear? Christ will carry us through our sufferings by shielding us or giving us strength to bear them. Be at peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, vain dreads, and anxious imaginations.

And as for sin and forgiveness? Trust in the first person we know of to unlock the secret of perfect contrition. Recognizing that he and not Christ deserved punishment, Dismas turned to Jesus and said, “LORD, remember me when You come into your Kingdom.”

I would guess all of us reading this article compare favourably to the thief hanging beside Christ. What a bleak outlook his life had on the morning of that Good Friday. And yet what a miracle of Grace awaited St Dismas and awaits us when we turn to Jesus in simple faith: “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

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