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Catholic Vancouver April 3, 2019

Hope isn’t ‘sunny optimism’: Archbishop Miller

By Agnieszka Ruck

Archbishop Miller celebrating Mass at St. Mark's College March 27. Christian hope is anchored in the Resurrection, not in vague feelings, he told students, staff, and others at a lecture after Mass that day. (Agnieszka Ruck photos)

With Easter on the horizon, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, shared some of his reflections on hope with St. Mark’s and Corpus Christi College students.

In an address to students and community members as part of the college’s Fill Your Bowl with Hope series at UBC, he said hope is not a “sunny optimism” or a cheerful disposition.

“Amidst the darkness that we find in the world and even in the Church – and here you can list everything from war, terrorism, sexual abuse, ecological disaster, etc. – Christians nonetheless can and do hope,” he said during a short lecture after Mass March 27.

Christian hope is a “trustworthy” one, a virtue that helps those who trust in God face present challenges, including exams, fear about the future, and personal trials.

“Our hope is not vague,” because it is anchored in the Resurrection, he said. “With Jesus’ rising from the dead, the Cross is revealed as a promise that from every death new life can arise, and from every dark place light can shine.”

Hope amidst darkness was particularly apparent, he said, in Mary’s presence by the foot of the cross.

The Gospels “record Mary’s presence simply: she was ‘standing by’ the thick darkness of that hour. She did not go away. She stood there out of faithfulness to the plan of God whose handmaid she proclaimed herself to be on the first day of her vocation. That day on Golgotha, her fiat is fulfilled,” he said.

“Did hope die? No. Mary alone held the whole hope of the Church in her heart. In the darkness, but with certainty, she knows that God keeps his promises. She hopes in his fidelity.”

Archbishop Miller speaking to students and staff at St. Mark's College March 27.

Archbishop Miller, speaking to several dozen students, staff, and others, was quick to add that hoping in the resurrection and the life to come does not exempt Christians from spreading hope and goodness in the present moment.

“Hope for the fullness of eternal life does not turn us away either from our neighbour or from commitment to working on behalf of the common good. While our hope is certainly directed beyond the present world, to the future, it also gives us the horizon against which we work to help make this world conform to God’s plans for his world: to shed light in the dark, to continue, under grace, the work begun on the first day of Creation.”

To those struggling through the second half of Lent, personal trials, or driven to cynicism by too much tragedy, pain, and bad news – place your hope in heaven, he said. “We go forward because we are certain that our life has this anchor on that shore where we hope to arrive.”

Archbishop Miller was speaking as part of the college’s annual Lenten lunch series. Every Wednesday during Lent, free soup is served and a guest speaks up about a topic of local relevance. Upcoming speakers include mental health advocate Lisa Rumpel April 10 and Surrey teacher and mom of two adopted children Yolanta Samus April 17.

Past speakers were the college’s principal Peter Meehan, Personality and Human Relations educator Leah Bittante, L’Arche members Annette Kuhn and Patrick Byron, and head of Courage ministry Deacon Hilmar Pabel.