For many years, Archbishop Richard Smith posted weekly reflections at a blog titled The Reason for Our Hope (these reflections can now be found on our Archdiocesan website.) The title of the Archbishop’s blog was inspired by the words of our first pope, who challenged us to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). Hope might best be understood as believing that God’s promises can be trusted, and that they apply to each of us. With this in mind, Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope reminds us that “the one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” When I think about the reason for my own hope in this context, I could summarize it with the title of this section of the YouCat: I have hope because I believe in Jesus Christ.
Believing in Jesus means believing that the events of the Gospel really did happen. Jesus really was born. He really did walk this earth. The Gospels don’t begin like a fairy tale, stating that “once upon a time” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away”. They begin instead by naming places we can visit and dates we can verify. Their testimony is confirmed by Jewish and Roman sources who had no vested interest in promulgating any sort of myth!
When we dig deeper into who the Gospels reveal Jesus to be, much could be said about the life Jesus led. His first thirty years were ‘hidden,’ with only the accounts of His birth, presentation, and finding in the Jerusalem Temple listed in the scriptures. He lived this ‘hidden life’ because “Jesus wanted to share a normal life with us and thus sanctify our everyday routine” (YouCat 86). The three years that follow His hidden life make up the bulk of the Gospel, what we know as Jesus’ public ministry. During this time, He preached many sermons and performed many miracles. He also called many to follow Him, presented a more intimate relationship with God than had been previously understood, and exemplified what a human life is meant to be. Apparently, what we read of those three years only scratches the surface of what Jesus did, as St. John acknowledges that “…there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
There are of course a handful of events which are at the heart of our faith: Jesus’ brutal suffering on the Cross, His death, and His resurrection. When Pontius Pilate is questioning Jesus, the Lord explains “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). By giving His life in our place on the Cross, Jesus is the witness for us of His Father’s love. Because Jesus really rose again, we no longer need to fear death or the hardships that come in this life. Jesus has shown us that God is bigger than all of it:
“Because death is now no longer the end of everything, joy and hope came into the world. Now that death ‘no longer has dominion’ (Romans 6:9) over Jesus, it has no more power over us, either, who belong to Jesus.” -YouCat 108
We are invited to be the followers of Christ, and so call ourselves Christian. This name comes from a Greek word Christianos, which means ‘follower of Christ.’ Following Jesus is really what it means to be a Christian. It is He who sits at the center of who we are and what we do. This makes believing in Jesus who was crucified, died and rose again the defining reality of our lives. To say ‘I believe in Jesus’ isn’t simply to follow an ideal or to be a part of a cause, it is to believe in a real person, one who is unlike any other person who has walked this planet:
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” –Pope Benedict XVI
The reason I would give for my own hope begins and ends with the person of Jesus. I am grateful for the witness of His life, both what is written in the Gospels and those years we know so little about. More specifically, my hope comes from the events we remember during Holy Week, when Jesus showed us how much God loves us (John 3:16), and I live my life as a follower of Christ response to His life-giving love.
-This is part of a series on the Youth Catechism. Mike Landry is Catholic Youth Camps director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton. He is also chaplain for Evergreen Catholic Schools, serving 10 schools west of Edmonton. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Stony Plain with their five children.