Reflection – May 12th, 2024 – Ascension of the Lord

Living in Hope

And just like that, it is Mother’s Day again. As always at this time of year, my mother is much on my mind. She had an abundance of wisdom sayings – some were her own pearls, and some the words of others which resonated with her. A favourite was “Live in hope or die in despair.”  That sprang to mind today as I was reflecting on St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians. At the time of writing this, I am not actually sure which one of those readings you will hear, as this Sunday there are options for the second reading – either Ephesians 1 or Ephesians 4 – something which rarely happens. Given such, a wise woman would find something else to speak about. Unlike my mother, I have never been accused of being wise. 😊

While different, both readings mention the word ‘hope.’ In one, it is the “hope to which he has called you;” in the other, it is the “hope of your calling.”  Before reading today’s readings, knowing it was the Ascension of the Lord, I thought that I would write about ascension – it is such a wonderful image. For years I would say that when I died, I was also going to ascend. It seems a much better option to me than going into the fire or the earth upon your death. However today, for whatever reason, hope speaks to me.

How do we live with hope, in hope, when so much around us may seem hopeless? How does one live with hope when they receive devastating news – about their health, their children, their partner, their finances, their job? In Ephesians 1, St. Paul says, “I pray … you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”  In Ephesians 4, despite writing from a prison cell, a place of anguish and hopelessness, Paul speaks of hope and gifts. Hope is somehow irrevocably connected to faith, I believe. And love. It is very much about living in the hope my mom spoke of, or we will be driven to despair. Hope, Emily Dickinson said, “is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Like us all, my life has had its share of unwelcome news. Sometimes the weight of sad news can bear down on us. Still, it is so much better to laugh than to cry. It is so much better to live with optimism than gloom. It is so much better to anticipate the best, than to imagine the worst. “Hope, we are told,” again by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, “does not disappoint us. Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) That same Spirit we received at Baptism, bringing those same gifts which Archbishop Desrochers spoke about last Sunday during the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation at Immaculate Heart of Mary. Those gifts which we have access to if we simply chose to open the box.

A quick glance in the Concordance shows me the word ‘hope’ seems to be used by Paul more than any other writer in Scripture. Paul it would appear, knew the importance of maintaining hope; knew that we have reason to hope. Even when life does not go as we wish, Mom and St. Paul were right. In the most hopeless of situations, it is important to cling to hope. Hope is one of the three virtues that continue to abide. So please, let it abide in me, because as 19th century British author Samuel Smiles said, “hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within them the gift of miracles.”  

~Ellen Bennett


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