The refreshing pastoral letter which the Bishop of Gozo, Mgr Mario Grech, wrote on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven is, in itself, an important milestone “in the narrative of Christian hope” for the people of Malta and Gozo.
Rather than stressing the “ethics of fear” Bishop Grech’s pastoral letter was a fruitful exercise on the “ethics of hope”. Irrespective of the different opinions one may entertain on hope one cannot help it but subscribing to the spirit of the pastoral letter.
Unfortunately, there are people who are faithful adherents to the dark night of hope. The pastoral letter mentions people “who have given up hope in the face of challenges of personal, familial and social nature”. Even Church members are not immune from this catastrophe. The pastoral letter mentions those who “are deluded because they have not seen the hopes raised in the Church by the Second Vatican Council sixty years ago”. There are also those who are resisting “certain reforms in the various aspects of the Church’s life”. Others are “confused in the face of a certain adjournment the Church”. Whereas others are entirely focused “on the defect rather than the much good there is in man,” thus ignoring “the efforts, however small but sincere, that a person tries to make to rise up on his feet”.
Bishop Grech rightly insisted that “the Church exists in order to offer true hope for humanity”. But what is the Church really proposing? Jesus Christ! In fact, in his first letter to Timothy, Saint Paul says that: “Jesus Christ is our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). But who is this Jesus Christ Saint Paul is preaching about? Certainly, He is the one who appreciates the minutest of efforts the sinner does in order to reconcile herself and himself with God the Father. As happened in the case of the man who was born blind from birth Jesus “tries to ignite the doused flame of hope in that person by appreciating the powerful potential in him and in disadvantaged people like him”. Further down in his pastoral letter Mgr Grech commented: “While those around Jesus focused on moral fault, Jesus had mercy on the person without any hope; what civil society and the religious community considered to be rubbish, in Christ’s vision was an opportunity for God to reveal himself; that which in man’s judgement was a manifestation of ‘sin’, for Christ became a manifestation of the grace of God”.
The singular characteristic of the Christian God is that of redeeming reality in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For instance, the Cross of Jesus from a sign of curse and death God the Father completely changed it into the sign of salvation and resurrection. Hence, the pastoral letter explained:
“In the light of the resurrection from the dead, even the Crucifix is a symbol of hope. As Pope Francis continues to teach us, Jesus crucified is a fountain of hope that blossomed positively by the power of love: for love that ‘hopes all things, endures all things’ (1 Cor 13:7), love that is God’s life, renewed everything it came in contact with. Thus, at Easter, Jesus changed our sin into forgiveness, our death into resurrection, our fear into trust. That is why our hope was born and continues to be reborn on the cross; that is why with Jesus every darkness can be changed into light, every defeat into victory, every despair into hope”.
Obviously, such hope is translated into concrete actions that help it blossom. The pastoral letter highlighted the “wise discernment that one makes to find the way”. By wise discernment what this pastoral text is referring to is the “need to investigate, to sift and judge” a given situation and have the “courage to endeavour to change it”. That is why Bishop Grech’s pastoral counsel is worth reflecting about: “Let us remember that a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.
Lord, keep my hope in you alive, especially in the dim light of day and in the dawn. Give me the joy of trusting in the infinite possibilities of your eternal goodness and mercy. Amen.