First reading Isaiah 45:1,4-6
I have taken Cyrus by his right hand to subdue nations before him
Responsorial Psalm 95(96):1,3-5,7-10
Second reading 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
We constantly remember your faith, your love and your hope
Gospel Matthew 22:15-21
Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
Paul congratulates the community on the way they are ‘showing their faith in action, are working for love and persevering through hope’. This is the first of many occasions in which faith, hope and love are mentioned in the one breath.
These are called ‘theological virtues’ because, as the Catholic Catechism explains (n.1812): ‘They relate directly to God, disposing us to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity’.
We often reflect on faith and we are always speaking of love. I wonder how often we take time to reflect on the Christian virtue of hope? The word ‘hope’ conjures up all the things we hope for, for ourselves and for those we love, and, ultimately our hope that one day we will enjoy the presence of God for all eternity in heaven.
It is true that the virtue of hope is about the future, but it is important, and perhaps surprising, to note that, while hope as a Christian virtue does concern the future, its focus is very much on the present. It is good to long with expectation for future happiness, but it is also true that such longing can distract us from the reality of the present moment.
By the virtue of hope, we entrust the future peacefully to God and confidently leave it in God’s hands, knowing that he who loves us will certainly continue to do so in the future. Our faith in God assures us that God wants for each of us what Jeremiah calls: ‘a future full of hope’(Jeremiah 29:11).
We have to remind ourselves that there is no such reality as the future. What we think of as future is only real when it is actually present. Prior to that it is nothing more than a figment of our imagination.
It fills us with dread at times because we do not have the strength to cope with it, nor do we have the grace. The reason is that it is not present and so not real. If ever it becomes real, then we will have the grace and the strength to bear it, but not now.
Thinking of God’s love we can entrust the future to him. Thinking of Jesus’ courage, we can face the present, whatever its pain, in trust, knowing that the best way to help our future is to live the present moment as well as we can.
Let us long for the eternal communion with God that is heaven. We are made for that and our hearts remain restless till we enjoy it.
But this longing must not distract us from living now as truthfully and lovingly as we can, while remaining open to God’s grace. The one for whom we long is with us now, and at the end of our life he will take us as his very dear children into his eternal embrace.
May this sure hope give us the courage we need to concentrate now on living a life of love.