A week ago, we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem and God’s fulfillment of his promise of a Savior for us. Our hope of a Savior we expected to save us from the forces of sin and evil was equally fulfilled by God. We should, therefore, have confidence in God’s power to fulfill his word, accomplish his will, and save us from the forces of sin and evil through his Son Jesus Christ who is now present in our midst as God-with-us. Even at the beginning of this New Year with its uncertainties and challenges, we should renew our hope and trust in God’s goodness, guidance, and faithfulness in our various vocations in life. So my New Year’s message is: Our Hope in God will not Disappoint us.” These were St. Paul’s words of exhortation to the Christian community in Rome in Rom. 5:5. He said to them in verse 3-5 “we should rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which he has given to us.” God has already fulfilled our hope of a Savior with the birth of Jesus. So we have reason to believe that God will not fail or disappoint us in this New Year of 2022 based on our hope and trust in him.
Every New Year, we have new hope and plans we want to achieve in our lives as individuals, a community of faith, and a nation. We hope for a better New Year that is more peaceful, healthy, successful, and prosperous than the previous year. If we experienced misfortune, sickness, and disappointment the year before, we hope for good health, success, and progress in the New Year. We look forward to a year of blessing, favors, good health, and fulfilment in our lives. The whole world has seriously suffered for the past two years from the deadly effects of the Corona Virus pandemic that is still a danger to human life and activity. So our hope for this New Year is obviously the eradication of this deadly pandemic so that we can experience good health and resume normal interaction and activity. Those who endured pain, disappointment, and hardship this past year also have new hope for a more prosperous and comfortable life in the New Year. Others have new plans for the New Year they want to achieve, in order to, realize their purpose and goal in life. Some of us plan to understand our faith more and grow in our knowledge and love of God and be more committed and active in our Church and society. Many others want to advance their career, education, skills, and business, discover their vocation, or begin a new family life. So our hope and plans are usually set in place in the New Year but they may or may not be realized in the course of the year. For, our hope and plans are not fully within our own power and ability to accomplish without God’s blessings and assistance.
Our human limitations and imperfections also affect our ability and determination to realize our plans, hope, and expectations in the New Year. They often prevent us from achieving our aspirations in life even when we have very good intentions. We still experience disappointment in fulfilling our hopes and plans because the outcome does not completely depend on us alone. There are other factors that can prevent or enable us to achieve what we expect to accomplish in the New Year. Our personal hope and plans must, therefore, be grounded on our hope in God and our efforts to overcome our human limitations and imperfections if we intend to succeed. Otherwise, we will not realize our human aspirations and expectations and we will not be fulfilled in our lives. If we even accomplish what we plan and hope for, Pope Benedict XVI, observed that “it becomes clear that they are not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that we have need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for us, something that will always be more than we can ever attain. He, therefore, concluded that “tomorrow's better world cannot be the proper and sufficient content of our hope.” We are not expected, therefore, to simply hope for a better life, a better future, and the fulfillment of our plans in the New Year. Our ultimate hope that is the foundation of all other hope and plans we have for ourselves should be our hope in God, our creator and source of life and strength.
As one of the theological virtues, hope in God is a divine gift we graciously received from God to enable us to trust God at all times even without a cause or reason to do so. We cannot, in that sense, acquire hope in God on our own accord because it is a gift that God infused in our soul when became believers. So it is not based on what we already know or perceive with our senses. Hope is God’s free spiritual gift and St. Paul clearly affirmed in Rom. 8:24 that, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church in nos. 2090 would, therefore, define our hope in God as, “the confident expectation of divine blessings and the beatific vision of God, as well, as the fear of offending God’s love and incurring punishment.” This confident hope in God’s goodness and purpose for us is what we need, in order to, succeed and experience fulfilment in life. Such hope surpasses all other hopes, according to Pope Benedict XVI, because it is hope in God “who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain … For, God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety.”
We should, therefore, cherish and maintain our hope in God in the course of the New Year even in times of doubt and uncertainty. For, it is our hope in God that St. Paul said in Rom.5:5 will never deceive or disappoint us. We can be disappointed by our personal plans and hope and other aspirations we have at heart due to our human imperfection. But God cannot disappoint us when we hope in him because God is always faithful, gracious, and with us in all our situations in life. So we have no reason to lose hope and faith in God in the course of this New Year even if we experience hardship and pain in our lives. We should, rather, in St. Paul’s words in Rom. 12:12 rejoice in our hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer. Our hope in God should not, therefore, be compromised no matter our experience and condition in life. For, it keeps us, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1818 from discouragement; it sustains us during times of abandonment; and it opens up our hearts in expectation of eternal beatitude.” So we are encouraged in Heb. 10:23 to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised us is faithful. We, therefore, need to renew and strengthen our hope in God’s goodness, blessings, protection, and deliverance in our various works of life.
Considering God’s assistance throughout last year and his goodness in keeping us alive to witness another New Year, we should thank God for his guidance and protection and commend this year to his loving care and righteous judgment. For, God alone knows what the New Year holds for us and he alone is able to help us achieve our personal hope and plans. So we should be convinced that our hope in God will not deceive or disappoint us even if our condition in life is not what we expect. God will still support us and grant us our spiritual and material needs when we least expect. We have no reason, therefore, to be anxious and doubtful of what will happen to us in this New Year. Our future is safely in God’s hands so we should confidently look forward in faith and hope in God’s power to sustain and guard us from all misfortune and danger. On this special day we celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, we are invited to imitate her example of faith and hope in God’s promises. She was specially chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God and she fully believed that God’s promises will be fulfilled and allowed God’s will to be done in her life. We too should entrust ourselves to God and allow his plans for us to be fulfilled following the example of Mary. As the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, I wish the priests, religious, and faithful of the Diocese, our Christian brothers and sisters, Muslims, believers of other faiths and their families and friends, Gambians at home and abroad a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year. May God bless and protect you all throughout this year of 2022.
Yours Servant in Christ,
Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Mendy C.S.Sp.
Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia.