Imagine for a moment the utter despair of the disciples on Holy Saturday. For three long years they had toiled ceaselessly with their Master, leaving livelihoods, families, and everything else behind. They had loved him devotedly, spending their days learning the deepest wisdom from him, accompanying him on wearying journeys, enduring scorn for his sake, eating and sleeping with him, and witnessing his jaw-dropping miracles—all the while confident that they would enjoy an exalted place in his earthly kingdom, which would certainly be ushered in at any moment.
Then began Holy Week, which was the week of shattered hopes for these faithful men. Their beloved Jesus, whom they expected to utterly destroy the powers of evil and national oppression, was stripped of both his clothes and his dignity. He was savagely beaten, mocked, and tortured. Finally, he was nailed to a gibbet, bloodied beyond recognition, for everyone in the world to gawk at.
After placing his lifeless body in the tomb, the disciples retreated in terror and defeat. All they had labored for was lost, it seemed. Confusion and the terrible canker of doubt consumed their hearts. Had they been deceived? Were they deluded? Could this really be the end? What would become of them now? The future was no doubt a black abyss of certain death, suffering, and misery.
With the benefit of centuries of hindsight, it is easy for us to say with an air of superiority, “Those foolish men, why didn’t they believe? Why couldn’t they see? I would have understood and believed Jesus at his word. I would not have lost my faith. I would be different.”
But in saying so, we betray our pride. For if we are honest, we often find ourselves with the very same discouraged and defeated hearts as we watch all that is good, true, and beautiful in this world fading into oblivion, overshadowed by ever growing clouds of darkness.
Families are crumbling, marriage is being redefined, our free speech is being infringed upon, legal battles are constantly lost, pornography is ubiquitous, the Church is in crisis, secularization is rampant—the list is seemingly endless. In short, we are losing the culture war, and evil is triumphing before our very eyes.
Indeed, if we dwell on the moral state of the world, discouragement is merely the logical response. It is difficult to imagine a hopeful attitude amid such chaos. But as the darkness grows rapidly, I would argue that hope is exactly the virtue we must most prominently display. When others cower in fear, we must declare boldly that we have a certain hope. If we cannot do this, what good is the Faith we profess?
Hope, like love, is not a feeling. In our darkest moments, we can still have hope, for it is an act of the will. It is something we choose. More than this, it is a supernatural virtue, infused into our souls by the Holy Spirit, and which allows us to say with David, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
The disciples were discouraged because they forgot the power and the promises of God. Despite the many thousands of miracles they had seen, they allowed their faith to be obscured by the trials and the tragedies of a day. We cannot succumb to the same temptation, no matter how strong it may be.
The answer is simple – we must choose hope with the help of God’s grace.
No matter how bleak things may appear, all is not lost. The salvific providence of God extends beyond the battles we face at this moment in history, and Our Lord has placed us in these blackest days for a reason.
We must reject self-pity and confidently hold God’s hand wherever he leads us, bearing witness to the truth with our lives, and if necessary, our deaths. We must press forward despite our very human doubts.
Do not be discouraged, and do not be afraid. Stir up your heart and choose to hope in the power of God. When all seems lost and you are tempted to despair, remember the terrified and faithless disciples to whom Christ spoke the solemn and sacred words on that darkest of nights, “Lo, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”