The word of the day is “faith.” In today’s reading of Hebrews 11:17-23, 27-31, we see the power of faith to bring our hope near to us so that it informs and shapes our lives. In the preceding verse, we find that Paul speaks of the hope for a “better, that is, a heavenly country… a city prepared for the faithful (vs. Hebrews 11:16). All the examples of faith that follow are instances that depend on and move that hope closer to its realization.
Faith Moves Hope Forward
For example, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (vs. 17) looked forward to the sacrifices of God’s only Son. The blessing of Jacob and Isaac concerned the “things to come’ (20). The blessing of Joseph predicted the return of the children of Israel to the Holy Land (vs. 22). The concealing of Moses saved the one who would lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt (vs. 23). The identification of Moses with the Chosen People and his departure from Egypt enabled him to lead his people out of Egypt (vs. 27). The celebration of the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea anticipated the celebration of Pascha. The fall of the walls of Jericho launched the conquest of the Promise Land (vs. 30).
Faith Grasps Hope as a Reality Though it Is Still Far off
Do you see how each of these actions was a daring example of faith, the trust in the promise of the eventual fulfillment of hope? Faith grasped the hope of promise though it was far in the distance. Faith saw the hope from afar though it was as yet vague and undefined.
Faith was stronger than despair because it regarded the promise of God as real. And it moved the people step by step toward the fulfillment of their hope. When the people lost faith in their hope as the Children of Israel did in the wilderness, their progress toward their goal stalled. Without confidence in their hope, the people wandered for years in the desert, disoriented and lost. Finally, the Lord gave Moses’ successor the renewal of the inheritance of the Promise Land (Joshua 1:1-5), and the people’s hope was restored.
Hope motivates and directs our lives. When a child is born, we hold it tenderly as a bundle of hope. When we send children to school, we put our hopes in their backpacks. When couples marry, they receive the blessings of the hopes of their family and friends. When we take up our life’s vocation, we hope for a successful and useful career. When we retire, many wish us well. And even on our deathbed, hope does not abandon us but is transformed into anticipation of the blessed rest of the saints in Christ. To lose hope is to languish in despair. At each step of life, we need to trust in hope. Above all, we need to rely on the God of hope whose promises always go on ahead of us, leading us to the fulfillment of His good will.