The Greatest of These is Hope

By Sister Jean Anne McGrath

“In the end there remain faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.”

How often we hear these powerful words from St. John’s gospel and find comfort, challenge, and a sense of oneness with all who believe in the power of love to mend a broken world.  This year, as we prepare to celebrate Easter and the amazing news of the successful inoculation of literally millions of persons with lifesaving vaccines, I think my prayer might be altered a bit; “and the greatest of these is hope”.


This is the season to celebrate HOPE. After a full year of eye-opening revelations and deprivations we have learned that despite being the most advanced nation in the world we are indeed vulnerable, hurting, and subject to forms of paralysis we never dreamed possible.

The list of things for which we used to hope has shifted dramatically. I never thought that I would ever be hopeful for a safe trip to the grocery store, a hug from my grand nieces and nephews, a chance to celebrate liturgy in the faith community I love, a comfortable face mask, a burger and fries with friends at the local pub. But hope is in the air today.


Helen Keller wrote, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” In the last twelve months we have seen the pain and suffering caused by a microscopic and invisible virus. We have felt the intangible fear when we realized, “it seems to be everywhere”. And, against all odds, brilliant and dedicated scientists have achieved the impossible and almost unimaginable miracle of finding multiple medicines that promise to help us through this international crisis.


In her beautiful poem, “A World in Morning”, highly gifted poet laureate Amanda Gorman names the sense of relief and gratitude we are experiencing as we begin to see some important signs of recovery in all areas of life.

And so, on this meaningful morn,
We mourn and we mend
Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.

I think mourning and mending well define these (almost) post pandemic days. I think they also define Easter hope and Easter joy and provide a new focus and direction to use the experiences of these last twelve months to live more authentically as “Easter People” whose experience of great loss and suffering has transformed so much of what we have for too long taken for granted.


Will we forget the heroic work of first responders whose endless hours in emergency rooms and intensive care units often included holding the hands of patients who died alone?  Will our memories be able to hold the pictures of mile long lines of families waiting in food lines for the necessities required just to survive for the next week? As we return to “business as usual” can our hearts hold the compassion and empathy to stay close to those who have lost loved ones to this dreaded virus?  If not, why not? If so, How?


What have we learned that will nudge us to nurture a deep sense of hope that will make our world a bit more kind, a bit more patient, a bit more empathetic and compassionate.

I recently saw a poster which read: “Hope is a passion for what is possible”. I love the quotation because it makes hope an active verb, not merely a feel-good noun. In this Easter season, I want to have a hope-filled passion for justice, a hope-filled passion for gratitude, a hope-filled passion for doing my small part to ensure that the poor and marginalized can also experience a passion for what is possible.  I want the lessons of the last twelve months to encourage more than a seismic sigh of relief, but instead, a seismic shift in how I might become become my better self.

Gorman’s poem includes an invitation:

For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,
Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.
So, ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:
Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

May we not forget the ache that we have endured, but rather be on fire with a passion for what is possible.


About the Author

JeanMcGrathAfter years as a Catholic School Principal, Sister Jean McGrath is looking forward to volunteer service now that she has retired. She loves a good book, a good conversation and a good bargain!

21 thoughts on “The Greatest of These is Hope

  1. Sallie Latkovich says:

    What a wonderful blog piece, Jean. So many good expressions of and references to hope. I agree: the greatest of these is hope.


  2. Marlene Schemmel says:

    Jean, Great Reflection! Hope is believing one can make a difference and we try to do this with our lives…as Kathy Sherman wrote: Let us hold on to HOPE!”


  3. Maria Hill says:

    Perfect timing for such a beautiful reflection on hope! Perfect because we all need hope now as you so eloquently stated. And perfect because I am about to begin my annual retreat during Holy Week and beyond, and the theme of my retreat is HOPE. Thank you!


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