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“It will be all right!” one of my Jesuit confreres said when he came to breakfast a few days ago. He talked about Corona, about the vaccine, and the possibility of how this vaccine could be transported to the populations and distributed in a just way. Often, we do not agree on things in our community, but this time I can put it that way: we all hope that the pandemic will end soon. We have never hoped for anything so longingly.

Surely every one of you knows other situations in which there was great hope. It was the hope that a job would be offered, the hope that a long-cherished desire to have children would come true. Hope is what defines us as believers. What is the reason for our hope? As we are believers, it is God and his love. God who - in Jesus - sent us his Son. Jesus was a bearer of hope for many people during his lifetime, especially for ordinary people. Many liked to hear him. Jesus was only fought against and rejected by the strong, the mighty, the established and, you have to put it that way, the religious leaders. With his words and deeds, Jesus gave hope and confidence to many people. We hope that God takes part in the life of this world, that God is present in the life of the world and of humankind.

We see this in the reading from the Book of Isaiah. When Isaiah wrote these words, the Jews had just returned to Jerusalem from exile. They were convinced that exile was a punishment from God. The people felt very far from God. They believed that God had left them. Where was God in their suffering? Why did God allow that the longing for HIM lessened and grew cold? Why did God harden their heart? This is what the Israelites asked themselves. It seemed as if God himself had caused people to stop looking for him, had caused that they were no longer longing for him. Nevertheless: the people of Israel hoped, they pleaded, they prayed that God would again intervene and be present in their lives.

In the greatest distance to God, people pray. They remember that God intervenes and is present when they put their hope in him; when they turn to him; when they live according to his commandments; when they ponder his ways. The Israelites feel: “It is only our God who is so close to people. Only our God is a living God.” But they also make an admission of guilt. That God is so far away for them is entirely due to their fault. They had turned away from him. But they realize that God is their Father, that they are always his creatures, called into life by their God. They feel that they owe their lives to God. The Israelites hope that God will give them salvation once again, that He will turn to them anew.

Basically, these are also questions that are asked today, in our time, at the end of 2020. Isaiah's words can also strengthen the hope in God we have in us. Our life, too, should be determined by hope and confidence in the face of any alarmism and pessimism.

Let's take a look at life in 2020. In addition to Corona, we are concerned with the wars and hunger that exist in the world. How many times have I heard that this world is falling apart right now! When it comes to climate protection, a lot of people believe that it's 5 past 12. In a haunting and emphatic encyclical, Pope Francis recommended climate protection and the preservation of creation. We have to live in such a way that this world remains suitable for living, remains livable. To do this, we need to go back to our faith in God. In us, our fellow human beings should recognize what we hope for, should recognize what we stick to. That is: to God! To his love! God made this world. He gave us the commandments as a guide. We have to reconsider and remember them. Those who believe in God will always have reason to hope, despite all the threats we are currently facing. Because God comes and he will redeem this world. He will give us eternal life, salvation, eternal joy.

Paul also wishes this salvation, this experience to the Christian community in Corinth. In his letter he writes: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father”. The grace, the loving attention of God is promised to the Corinthians. In his wish for 'peace', Paul wishes the Corinthians happiness and well-being through God. “Peace” is the translation of “shalom”. To live in “shalom” meant to be one with God. This loving care from God is the basis of life for our actions in this world. This hope can be a source of strength and energy for our lives. But this foundation of our lives has to be acquired again and again. We must strive honestly to achieve it and to keep it. We must not forget that God is faithful. Communion with Jesus is not a possession that one holds in one's hand. People can withdraw themselves from God again and again. People can forget the hope that comes from believing in God.

Let us keep our hope alive in us, let us nourish it, and let us live on it!

Cf. 1st Sunday of Advent 2020

Fr. Wolfgang Felber SJ