High hopes

In English, "hope" is a word much like "love." You can use it for just about everything. I can hope for good weather, hope to hear from a friend, hope to sell my house, hope the roast doesn't burn, and hope my sister's chemotherapy works this time. And, I can hope in the Lord. It's the same word, but it reflects vastly different meanings.

No matter how bad things get, or how long we are tested, there is nothing more essential to our endurance than hope. If we have hope, we can hang on, even against the odds. If we lose hope, there is nothing to hang on to, and we lose not only the ability to weather the storm, but our desire to do so, as well.

Thankfully, hope is not difficult to find, nor is it easy to lose. There is something in us that is wired to believe, to trust, to find the good even in the worst of circumstances. That is how God made us. But the culture we live in seems to be as confused about hope as it is about everything else.

In other words, people don't know what to hope for, and even less what (or who) to hope in. A lot of us choose to go through life wishfully instead, waiting for the winning lottery ticket, or the dream job, or the perfect romance to come our way. But underneath it, we don't actually believe that anything even remotely like those things will be part of our lives. We decide that the best things we could hope for are mostly grand fantasies that rarely, if ever, make it into the real world. That is often how people seem to lose hope. It's because they never really had hope to begin with.

Maybe your fairy godmothers haven't visited you in a while, or you've slammed into a brick wall one too many times, or life has simply hit the fan -- again. If so, do not lose hope. Instead, consider joining thousands of people who are gathering to rediscover and renew the kind of hope that never disappoints. On Sept. 30 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, the hope that Jesus offers to the world, will be personally offered to you.

It's not that God doesn't offer us hope every day of our lives. It's that most days, we're just too busy chasing after poor substitutes. When those things fall short or fail to deliver, many of us mistakenly conclude that hope itself is hopeless. More and more of us decide that while faith might work for others, it just isn't going to work for me. We think of ourselves as "spiritual" but not "religious." In fact, we increasingly see a disconnect between living a spiritual life and being committed to a faith community. That was never God's plan.

Jesus came to bring hope to the whole world, not just to certain people in certain places living at certain times. And the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, is created as a people of hope, living in the power of hope, and offering hope to all who hunger for it.

Faith in Christ is not wishful thinking, fantasy, or a pipe dream. Jesus gives us reason to hope. The Son of God, the one who conquered sin and death for us, promises to make those who follow him "more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37). He promises to be with us here and prepares a place for us to be with him for all eternity. That is what we are hoping for because that is what every one of us was created for.

We all need a good strong dose of hope for the future. We can find it in the Jesus who said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). That's why I plan to attend the Hope Catholic Conference, all day on Saturday Sept. 30, at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. It's also why I hope to see you there.

For more information and tickets visit www.HopeConferences.com or call 978-771-4288.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.