19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first and second readings today are difficult to grasp. It might help if we meditate upon three aspects of Hope. First is the Hope simply born of trust in God and of dissatisfaction with the way things are. This is part of what the author of Hebrews writes about. People who saw things promised by God in the far distance and welcomed them – recognising as many of us do, that we are strangers and nomads on earth. We live here in tents, on a journey, looking forward to a permanent home with God. Our knowledge of God – our experience of life tells us that there is more, it gives birth to Hope.
This Hope is strengthened and fulfilled on the cross. And here is the second aspect of Hope - foreshadowed in the first reading. The night foretold is the night of the crucifixion and death of our saviour – and it is on the cross that we see what kind of oaths or promises we have put our trust in. The promises of the one who gives himself for us and to us out of love, the one who rises from the dead, the one who forgives, the one who is God. And that same act, his death on the cross, by which he takes vengeance on our foes and makes us glorious by calling us to share his resurrection, is the ground of our Hope because it destroys the power of death and the power of Satan and offers us eternal life.
We can recognise too, in that first reading, a foreshadowing of Holy Mass in which the sacrifice of Calvary is made present – in which our saviour gives himself to us in the lines “The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret – and this divine pact they struck with one accord: that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike. And forthwith they began to chant the hymns of the Fathers”.
The offering of the mass is the divine pact – the divine exchange by which we are made Holy, made saints and united in the one church- a church which draws its prayer and teaching from the traditions handed down by the apostles – the hymns of the Fathers.
This is the hope that is renewed each day at Holy Mass – renewed in confidence and thanksgiving revealing both what has been done for us, what is being done for us and looking forward in hope to what will be done for us. And this is the third aspect of hope taught to us in the Gospel by our Saviour. We are redeemed, the promises have been fulfilled, we are now members of the Church, members of God’s family. Therefore we have our responsibilities and duties. One day we must give an account to the Master, either when we die or when he comes again. He will judge us with love, but he will judge us, it is this hope which guards and directs our actions now.