Always be ready. If anyone should ask, you can give them the reason for your hope. That’s what we heard in the second reading today. Always be ready if anyone should ask: what is the reason for your hope? And today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthias. And I don’t know if you all know, but St. Mathias, one of the Apostles, was martyred and murdered by an axe, and that’s how his life ended. Yet he had hope. Why? And how can we have hope, even if we know that every one of us, at some point, our lives will end? What’s the reason for our hope?
I’ve been asking people this question all week, just asking them off the top of their head, what’s the reason for your hope? And a lot of people have just given me good answers, but some have been like, you know, God’s given me a great house, a great family, great job. I got it all. And I’m kind of thinking like that’s going to be all taken away at some point. So, what is the reason for your hope? And it’s been a challenge for me. When I celebrated my anniversary on Friday, I spent the Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament and I reflected on that in my own life. What has been the reason for my hope? Being a priest for 16 years, through many good times and some difficult times, how have I kept hope this entire time? And it was really a beautiful time for me. And I would encourage you, maybe this could be your homework for the week is to do the same yourself. Spend a holy hour on that question. What is the reason for your hope? If you like to journal, spend some time journaling. What is the reason for your hope? Maybe you can even just practice it with somebody.
Saint Peter says we should always be ready to give somebody a reason for our hope. Try it with your spouse. Just ask each other what’s the reason for your hope. Try with your friends or family or children. See what happens, what comes up when you answer this question. As I was thinking about it, the reason for my hope, a lot of it for me, is the encounters that I’ve had with Jesus, not only in the sacraments but also in my own prayer life. The times that I have experienced Him in a very real way and known in those moments that He is real. Not only that He is real, but that He has come to show us and reveal to us how loving and merciful our Father is. That’s the reason for my hope.
And think about the sacraments too. The seven sacraments. All of these sacraments give us a reason for our hope. When you and I were baptized and we were plunged into the water, or the water was poured over us, we were cleansed of our sins. We were baptized into Jesus. Into His very life, death, and resurrection. And because we were baptized into Jesus, we became one with Him. So, all of our life, all of our living, He’s one with us. All of your suffering, He’s one with you. At the moment of your death, if you have lived with Him and suffered with them, He will die in you. You will die in him. And if we have suffered and died with Him, we will rise with Him. It’s a wonderful reason for our hope. That’s the first sacrament that we received.
The second sacrament a lot of us received was confession. If you can, think back to when you were in second grade, the first time you had your first confession. Or think about just the last time you went to confession. That’s a wonderful reason for my hope. That anytime I find myself in sin and struggle, I can call upon brother priests and I can go to confession. Each and every one of us has that opportunity. When I can’t find another priest to do it, I just go to the bathroom, I look in the mirror and I go, I absolve you from your sin. I don’t do that (laughter). That doesn’t work. But we have this wonderful opportunity in the sacrament of confession. We can always go to Him, and no matter what sin we bring, there is no unforgivable sin. Your sins will be forgiven. And compassion. It’s a wonderful reason for our hope.
Then, in second grade, a lot of us received our first Communion. The fact that we can come here Sunday after Sunday. And receive Him every time we come into Mass. And we say the penitential act, at the beginning of Mass. Our sins are forgiven, and we receive Him: body, blood, soul, and divinity into us. We can take Him with us throughout the week. That’s a wonderful reason for our hope.
In the sacrament of Confirmation, we were all, if you were confirmed, we were confirmed and we received the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, all of that poured out upon us. We received the same spirit that the apostles received at Pentecost. So that’s a wonderful reason for our hope. If you’ve been confirmed, just think about that. I have received these gifts and fruits. By the way, if you haven’t been baptized or confirmed or received first Communion, I’d love to do that this Easter Vigil with you. You’re welcome to join our parish in the Church with that.
Marriage. Reason for our hope. The fact that two really imperfect people can be put together in this world and promise to love each other through good times and bad, sickness and health all the days of their life. That is a wonderful reason for our hope. And then anointing of the sick. Whenever we are ill, whenever we’re suffering, you can always call for the priest. The priest will come to us and lay hands on us, and the Lord will give us His healing and His strength to be with us during those times. And if we’re fortunate enough at the hour of our death, at the moment of our death, we can receive the last rites of the Eucharist, Viaticum, anointing of the sick, and be given that comfort.
I missed a sacrament. What did I miss? Holy Orders. Priesthood, yeah. Holy orders. It’s a wonderful reason for our hope. And I think about this, myself, like God could take me, who was not a great kid in high school and college, and transform me into something good. Though I’m still a sinner and still in need of healing. The fact that He could use a human and use me to represent Christ to all of you. That’s going to be a great reason for my whole being here. Remember when I was first ordained and first when I went into the seminary. I was kind of terrified because I thought how has this ever happened to me. I didn’t know how to read the Bible. It was a big conversion for me. But then I went through the seminary and discovered how wonderful this life could be.
I remember thinking when I was ordained, going to my first parish. What if they don’t like me? I remember thinking that. And then my first assignment, I gained so many wonderful friends and families over the years and each of the assignments, and now I’m here with you. And that’s a great reason for my hope. It’s so wonderful to finally get to be here with you and hopefully be your pastor and to shepherd you and to lead you. So be prepared. Always be prepared if someone were to ask you a reason for your hope. And some of you don’t have to worry about this cause you’re grumpy (laughter). So, people may not ask you that. I’m just kidding. But hopefully there are people that come up to us and see the way that we are and see the way that we live and they look at us and they say, how are you so hopeful? Think about the world that we live in today. Our country, our world is all the reason to not have hope. But people will look to you. And they’ll see hope in you. And they’ll want to know what it is, what it is about you that you have hope. Could you give them an answer? That’s what I invite you to reflect on this week. What is the reason for your hope?