St. Jude & the Many Prospects of Hope
Although St. Jude has sometimes been referred to as the ‘Patron of Hopeless Causes,’ this potentially misleading title is best seen a testimony to the radical faith of God’s people. After all, no one would bother to seek heavenly assistance for a cause that was truly thought to be hopeless. The fact that there exists a patron saint for causes that seem to be hopeless is a reflection of the Church’s recognition that, in reality, “nothing shall be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Precisely when it appears that all hope is lost, it is then that we are most graciously invited to “hope against hope,” as did Abraham our father. (Romans 4:18) In this way, when all other aid is seen to be worthless, the power of God is shown forth most gloriously.
Undeniably true as this is, it can be difficult to believe when faced with serious challenges. We all must make our own the prayer of the desperate father in Mark’s Gospel, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24) Are there any tips for making this easier? Indeed, there are. That to which we turn our thoughts makes an incredible difference in determining whether or not our faith will prove stronger than our fear. If we focus on our troubles, their enormity can easily overwhelm us and cause us to lose courage. It is far wiser to fix our attention instead on the omnipotence of God’s power and the astounding generosity of His goodness. The latter consideration boosts our courage, while the former only feeds our fear.
This is illustrated dramatically when the disciples behold Christ walking on water. St. Peter makes an act of faith that Christ can command him to walk on water as well; Christ does, and Peter steps out onto the sea. “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matt 14:30) As long as Peter had his eyes fixed on Christ, the Savior enabled him to stride above the tempest. Once he turned his gaze to the ferocity of the storm raging about him, however, Peter lost courage and began to sink. We too will often find that the struggles we are faced with form a spectacle too daunting to behold. Instead of looking at the storm then, we do much better to “keep our eyes fixed on Christ, the leader and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) In this way, the Lord will buoy us up amidst the trials and tribulations of life. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matt 14:27)
In addition to focusing our attention on Christ, it is equally important to practice patience and perseverance. The parable of the persistent widow is prefaced by an introductory line of great importance: “Then He told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without losing heart.” (Luke 18:1) Accustomed as we are to instant gratification, it can be easy to suppose that, if God doesn’t answer our prayers right away, He isn’t going to answer at all. This is far from the case, however, and the parable of the persistent widow is meant to correct precisely this form of discouragement caused by lack of patience.
“If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25) What is St. Paul telling us here? Often times, what causes us to become impatient is the fear that what we are waiting for isn’t going to come at all. When this fear is put to rest by the certain conviction that God is faithful to His promises, however, we become less frantic and are given the ability to endure for the long haul. Hence, if the Lord doesn’t seem to have answered your prayers just yet, don’t give up! You are being given an opportunity to extend your trust in Christ over a period of time. It is the Lord who will sustain you in this. You, for your part, “persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Ultimately, according to St. John of the Cross, “souls receive from God as much as they hope for from Him.” Our ability to hope for the good things God wishes to give us will grow tremendously if we take time to consider, as we said earlier, His almighty power and abundant goodness. Meditate for a few moments on the unfathomable power of the One Who created the entire cosmos out of nothing; “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, Who turns darkness into dawn, and darkens day into night; Who summons the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the surface of the earth.” (Amos 5:8) Everything that exists came forth from God’s mighty hand and stands ready to obey His will, and anything that doesn’t exist may yet come into existence if it would serve God’s purposes.
Even more dramatic than the marvel of Creation is the wondrous love God has exhibited for us in the life, death and resurrection of His Son. St. Paul poses an astounding question: “He who did not spare his own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” (Romans 8:32) If God was willing to deliver His own Son to death out of love for the human race, is there anything else He won’t do for us? A job, a physical healing, an emotional healing, a spiritual consolation, another favor of any sort—these are miniscule in comparison with the unfathomable gift of God’s very own Son. Hence, provided that it conduces to our eternal salvation, there is literally nothing we cannot hope to receive from this munificent God.
For these reasons and many more, those who invoke St. Jude’s intercession do well to exercise a deep, abiding and tenacious hope in the Lord Who loves us.