The very word Isaiah means “God is salvation”. Both his name and prophecies brought great hope for the humanity. Many people complain that they do not get help at the right time and life is not fair to them and there is no hope in life. What exactly does hope mean? Hope is “to desire something with confident expectation of its fulfillment.” Hope is not something merely life after death but present and historical. The state of hopelessness has been aptly described as a type of hell on earth, filled with endless despondency and despair. Hope is perhaps the most difficult of the three theological virtues to understand. It can be described as an unshakable trust and assurance that the promises of God will be fulfilled. By hope “we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1817). Hope is mainly for the afflicted, oppressed and the deprived humanity that passes through the valley of tears, like those without plots/houses, the unemployed, the abused ones/GBV. The basic objective of Prophet Isaiah’s oracles of hope is boosting the morale of the people in the times of discouragement, frustration or suffering. No prophecy can be rightly understood but in the context of the mosaic covenant. In other words, covenant is the backbone of prophecy. The Prophets accentuate the conditional mosaic covenant. One such time is that of the wicked kings after the reign of Solomon. Isaiah had to promise the people who were suffering under the rule of such kings that a just king will come from the family of David/Jesse (Is 11: 1) who will rule with justice and righteousness.
Prophet Isaiah underlines the ingratitude of the people and their lack of faith in Yahweh. The foundational event of Exodus becomes also the paradigm for understanding the liberation of the Israelites from other nations like Assyria (Is 11: 16) where they were in captivity. In other words, the Exodus provides basis for hope in a new Exodus. This is most explicit in Isaiah chapters 40-55, where the return of the exiles from Babylon is picturesquely described. He appeals to the Exodus memory to demonstrate also that the God of Exodus is more powerful than the other nations (Is 7). This was essential as the Israelites often fell into the temptations of seeking refuge in other nations and of idolatrous worship. Many times, the prophets associate Exodus with creation and underline the fact that it is the same Liberator who is also the Creator (Is 51: 9-11). Hope is generated at the junctures of frustration of various bondages. Firstly, hope here is passion—a desire for future life. Secondly, hope is perseverance—the need to triumph in covenantal relation with God against great probabilities, and thirdly, hope is the belief that there could be something greater beyond those probabilities. There is always hope not because of what the humans have done or earned but because of the love and loyalty of God (cf. Is 48: 6-11). “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40: 31). Hope is not a human attitude, but it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
In this wounded world brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic and other crises, including poverty, corruption, racism and violence, the Dalai Lama says in Time Magazine: “It is important that we think of the long-term challenges—and possibilities—of the entire globe. Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet. Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.” Past Exodus provides basis for hope in a new Exodus. This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another—even when we are living apart. Pope Francis invites everyone to renewed hope in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti # 55: “Hope speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love… Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile. Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope”- even after the electorate has spoken during the just concluded regional and local authority elections. God of life continues his saving work through different prophets of hope on the covenantal relationship of ‘loving one another’. God indeed will hear us and answer — but often in ways, and in timing, we did not anticipate. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (cf. Is 55:8–9). Let us be vigilant against the false prophets as Advent liturgical season tells us.