"Hoping against hope", from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 4, is a strange expression. The original is Greek to me! If I am not mistaken, it can be translated: "who, against expectation, believed in that for which he hoped".
Whatever it is that St. Paul specifically meant, he speaks a great deal of hope-for himself and for those to whom he ministers, for us. In the Letter to the Corinthians (4:16), he affirms that "we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day." In his letter to the Philippians (3:20-21), he reminds, "our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself." In today's second reading, from his letter to the Thessalonians (4:13), he says that he writes, "so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."
We are beset by too many challenges in life, however, not to be discouraged-at least, occasionally. Lately, I have been struck by the number of my parents' friends who have become rather frail or have died. Life is fragile, and as optimistic as we may try to be, we are not in control of everything that occurs in/to our bodies and we cannot stop the aging process and all that it brings.
Well aware of all of this, St. Paul is full of hope nonetheless: divine hope which is based on God's promises, and upon experience of a love so powerful that it raised Jesus from the dead. How important it is to bear in mind the promises and how much we need to experience the love. Indeed, we all have an experience of this love. It may seem distant sometimes, but we do, "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable". (Romans 11:29) And, "in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us", for nothing "in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord". (Romans 8:38)
With you in His love,
From the desk of the Rector