The Responsorial Psalm makes a flat statement: “Happy are they who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 1).
Malachi 3: 13-20 tells us we have an either-or choice: to base our hope on what we see, or on what God says. And the key to it is our time-frame.
At almost any moment in history it seems to us that “the proud are blessed” and that “evildoers prosper.” We see the rich and powerful breaking laws with arrogance and getting away with it. This is true of nations (markedly our own) as well as of individuals. But God says:
You shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked…. The day is coming… when all the proud and evildoers will be stubble… For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.
For us that “day” always seems to be coming, but not here! This summons us to change our time-frame.
We live in linear time, in which the past is gone and the future does not yet exist. But God sees time as a circle, in which past, present and future are all present at once in one eternal “now.” For God “that day” has already come, and it is present now. We proclaim this at Mass: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory” — the triumph of the “end times” that we pray for in the Our Father — “are yours now” as well as forever! What we look forward to with hope, God sees as present now. That is a basic principle of Christian life: “Happy are they who hope in the Lord.” And miserable are they who do not, however it may appear in our time.
Luke 11: 5-13 shows us how to make hope real. We experience the truth of our hope by expressing it in prayer and action. The way to enter into Christian hope is to pray for everything God promises, and then to act as if our prayer were already answered. A Jesuit novice master used to say, “When you ask God for a virtue, act as if you had it and you will have it!”
When Jesus tells us, “Ask, and you shall receive,” and tells us to keep asking with persistence, it is in the context of what he has just taught us to ask for in the Our Father. If we keep praying that God will be known and loved throughout the world — “Hallowed be thy name!” — that his Kingdom will come and his will be done perfectly on earth as in heaven, this will be granted to us.
The proof of prayer is action. We know we are praying with real faith and hope when we work for what we pray for. When as stewards of his kingship we keep working for the establishment of Christ’s reign over every area and activity of human life in the world, we know our hope is real. “Happy are they who hope in the Lord.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Believe in his triumph and work for it!