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[caption id="attachment_170959" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]"The gift of Jesus' hope" by Nancy Ward (CatholicMom.com) Image: Pexels.com (2018). CC0/PD[/caption]

Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope. (Pope Francis)

Pope Francis offered a reflection on hope in his homily for the Easter Vigil Mass. The pope said that night’s message reaches us in a particular way, since this year we have before us, as the holy women did, the “drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly.” In this moment, we are given, as a gift, Christian hope — which is not optimism or empty encouragement, but something much greater, he said.

Jesus’ hope is different. He plants in our hearts the conviction that God is able to make everything work unto good, because even from the grave he brings life. (Pope Francis)

This pandemic and the emotional chaos it brings takes me back to September 11, 2001, another pivotal moment when our world changed. The coronavirus, like the terror attacks, affect everyone on earth in some way.

We experienced then the same corporate fear and debilitating grief that now rocks our security. But back then, we could hug our loved ones, flee into our churches for consolation and trust in God like never before. Now, we are deprived of consoling hugs and the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and Adoration as again we must trust in God.

We eventually got used to searches and security stations, habitually looking over our shoulder with a new awareness of the danger of terrorism. Now we are used to social distancing, shortages in some necessities and grieving at home, with no idea what’s coming next.

On 9/11, the battle raged within us as we tried to make sense of the senseless; find a logical answer to the illogical. We now see that airports, DC museums, government and public buildings never returned to their former openness to us. As we emerge from the cocoon of our quarantine, will masks and gloves and social distancing become our new norm?

From my experience in Washington, DC, during 9/11, I know that we recover our balance by helping others recover theirs, our courage by encouraging others, and our hope by sharing our hope in God’s grace at work.

I’m heartened by the hope reflected in Pope Francis’ homily. The takeaway: How can we bring that Christian hope that God plants in our hearts to those whose faith is fading as we cope with Covid-19 and all its ramifications?

During our shelter in place, we can bolster our faith and our hope with devotions, online services, sacred music and communication with other Christians. The internet and phone connections go both ways, both bringing us hope and carrying the hope we have to offer to others.

Make conversations count

Let’s make our conversations count, go beneath the surface chit-chat in these precarious times. At a loss as to what to say or write? Use what’s familiar to express yourself.

Marketing experts tell us that facts tell, but stories sell. Stories bring hope. Where can we find stories to inspire us and encourage others? Here are three familiar go-to story resources to draw us closer to our God of hope.

  • Share uplifting prayers and memorable stories that that spur hope in your enthusiasm will carry as much inspiration as the stories. Those you converse with will remember the story and how you conveyed it with conviction and fervor.
  • Share beloved stories of favorite saints that you turn to when discouraged.
  • Share personal stories of your faith journey when God has rescued you, healed you or given you a miraculous answer to prayer.

The most effective story

The best source of effective stories to bring hope is our own faith story -- what God has done in our life to transform us into who He created us to be. St. John Paul II taught that the most effective way to evangelize is through our personal testimony. Yes, bringing hope is a powerful way to evangelize as fostering hope fills an immediate need and awakens the listener to your message.

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You can journal what’s going on now to share in the coming weeks and months. What hurts you the most right now, and what helps alleviate that hurt? What do you do when you are afraid? Anxious? Write down specific instances of God’s grace at work in you. Form the facts of your experiences into a story format you can share with others.

Prepare to share

How do we prepare to bring others hope through our experiences with God?

First, we must know deep in our hearts that God loves us as His beloved child, no matter what we say or do. A good preparation for me is spending a few minutes being still and letting God love me. When I open up and receive His love for me until it overwhelms me with peace, I know I’m ready to share. His love overflowing into the hearts of others is what evangelizing is all about. Not drama, preaching ,or carefully calculated sentences, but the abundant love of Jesus flowing from within our hearts in our own words.

Waste nothing

Our world changed on 9/11, and how well we know how it is changing now. Again, everyone on earth is affected. What remains constant is God’s love for us, our dependence on him and the miracles he bestows on us. Oh, the incredible stories we can remember from 9/11! And the mind-boggling stories happening to us now!

Will our great-grandchildren believe the stories of how we lived before the great Covid-19 pandemic? How we first reacted to each new restriction? What we learned in the Longest Lent? For ourselves and for them, let us diligently keep a journal of the strange new ways of controlled shopping, educating our children online, gathering on Zoom rather than in homes and restaurants, virtual worship without the touch and feel of the host and wine entering our mouths?

Let nothing go to waste that will glorify our Lord. Leave no story untold that can bring hope to those on the edge of despair. Let no story of how God raised us from deep grief be left unspoken to those grieving today. Let us always be ready to offer the gift of hope to those who have none. Be ready with specific examples from our own experience of how God works in our lives and theirs to bring us into his kingdom of love.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)

Copyright 2020 Nancy HC Ward