The Church continues to walk through the four-Sunday season of Advent. It is a time of preparing for the coming of the Lord. As such, Advent has the three-fold task of refreshing our memories about the Nativity of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, nurturing our belief in his continuing presence among us today in the sacraments, and pointing us to the glory of his Second Coming.

In light of the troubles that have befallen the human family over the past couple of years, it’s high time for us to reclaim the season of Advent and welcome its message of hope. If we are willing to pick up the mantle of Advent, then it will provide us with the lessons and graces we need to weather any storm and to overcome any tribulation.

When he was shepherding the Church, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of the truth of the Gospel, first developed by Saint Paul, that we are “saved by hope.” We have “little hopes” in everyday life that involve our circumstances, abilities, and resources, but there is a greater hope.

Our greater hope as believers is the hope infused in us at baptism, a hope that exceeds our natural abilities. It is a hope in the promises of God himself, as Benedict writes: “Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God – God who has loved us and who continues to love us ‘to the end,’ until all ‘is accomplished.’”

By hope, we can see God’s presence among us and can rejoice, even in the midst of disappointments and scandals. In hoping beyond ourselves, we place all the events of our lives – joyful and sorrowful, uplifting and depressing – in the hands of divine providence. Hope reminds us that God is still at work in our world and that all things will end well for those who love him.

Hope, therefore, when lived out in our lives is penitential because – in its theological form – it is the sure means of redemption in Jesus Christ. All of the little hopes of this life – financial security, good health, a happy family, a reformed Church – are “offered up” and placed within this one greater hope of eternal life and happiness with God.

The Lord Jesus told us in reference to the End Times, but such wisdom can be applied today: “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The theological virtue of hope then is not just “optimism” or taking a positive view of things, but a purifying fire and a demanding teacher in instructing us to hope in God. The fullness of hope becomes the very means of our own salvation. God the Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, will bless those who wait on him, who stand and raise their heads, and who hope in his justice and mercy.

Again, Benedict writes: “Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world’s future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance.”

Advent is here and we are called to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Advent, therefore, serves as the perennial season of hope. It is not a hope of merely changing the world around us, but a greater hope in the rejuvenating of souls and the welcoming of the Jesus Christ into our hearts and into our world today. Advent reminds us that God has already overcome the world and that he is at work within us and around us.

In our lives, as we lick our wounds, fight the good fight, and seek to do our best, Advent gives us a pat on the back and raises our minds to higher realities. The busyness, stress, and sorrows of the fallen world will happen, but the grace of God works through them and gives us hope. This is the message of Advent. It is a message that is needed, and a message that can help us all.

Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby