The virtue of hope responds to the deepest human desire for happiness which has been placed in our hearts by God. Hope takes up the human desire for happiness and purifies and shapes that desire toward God. The virtue of Christian hope, then, directs our minds and hearts to God.
As such, a world without God is a world without hope. In his beautiful encyclical on Hope, Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), Pope Benedict XVI’s opening claim is that “a distinguishing mark of Christians is the fact that they have a future.” They do not know the details of that future, but they know that “their life will not end in emptiness.”
In the Scriptures, hope is the virtue that keeps us from discouragement in the face of life’s anxieties and challenges. Hope re-directs our tired, troubled hearts towards God, opening our heart in expectation of eternal happiness with God. In the NT, the virtue of hope is linked to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who place their trust in the saving power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, are filled with renewed hope which comes from the Father.
The virtue of hope is also linked to faith. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read: “…faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1). Our faith deepens when we place our hope in God; and our hope is strengthened and fulfilled when we see the world around us with the eyes of faith. Hope is also linked to a peaceful confidence, an enduring patience, a deep-seated conviction which is the fundamental attitude of a Christian.
Christian hope is very realistic. It is built on the realization of our weakness, the limitations of human nature, the many difficulties of human life, and the absolute necessity of God’s grace. The Christian’s hope is not in himself/herself, but in Jesus Christ. Christian hope is not a wish or a feeling; it is a rock-solid certainty, a guarantee, an anchor – “the hope set before us…a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”(Heb. 6:18-19).
As Passionists – people on mission – we must reflect a hopeful spirituality, i.e. a spirituality trusting in God’s help: “Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labour in vain” …a spirituality hoping in the One who made the promise. Such hope is beyond rationality; it allows us to take steps beyond what is purely secure and reliable, trusting only in the One who calls us. The foundation stone of a spirituality of hope is surrender.
A spirituality of hope and trust lived to the full is a witness that the Gospel is Good News, and that Jesus is not a moral reformer of humanity but a manifestation of the unlimited and boundless love of God. (“The Passion is the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love” ~ Paul of the Cross).
We can be prone to confuse Christian hope with a worldly/secular optimism which believes that things are going to get better in a worldly sense. For example, we feel optimistic when we see many new vocations, our ministries expand, our churches full, when people sing our praises. We tend to measure our ministries by how successful we’ve been. But even Jesus’ ministry did not end on an optimistic note.
Jesus did not ask us to be ‘successful’; he asked us to be ‘fruitful’. Christianity does not promise success.
In fact, Jesus only promised his disciples that the cup he drank of, we would drink. He promised us the Cross: “If anyone wants to be follower of mine, let him/her take up their cross every day and follow me.” So, I guess, if we are to measure ourselves, it should be on how we have shared in Jesus’ Cross. On the other hand, if we trade true hope for a secular optimism, the Cross of Christ will become a stumbling block for us.
“Christian hope is not a wish or a feeling; it is a rock-solid certainty, a guarantee, an anchor.”
There is an important distinction between the virtue of Christian hope and optimism. Hope encompasses more than wishful thinking. It must be solidly rooted in reality. Hope remains steadfast even when things are not going well. Hope drives us to action, even in the darkest times. Hope does not dwell in the moment, but clings to God’s promise of a better future.
Hope is rooted in a blessed future promised by God, secured by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, guaranteed by Jesus’ resurrection, and sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hope allows us to remember that no good deed is done in vain, rather our efforts will bear eternal fruit. The theologian Jurgen Moltmann has said it well: “Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering and yet believes in the future.”
The virtue of hope is a call to action; it impels us to get to work rather than simply to hope in a shallow and passive manner. When Jesus teaches us to pray in the ‘Our Father’: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, when he says that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, he is inviting us to join with God, in partnership, to make God’s dream for our world come true.
The virtue of hope demands human effort. We must work as if it all depends on us and hope as if it all depends upon God.
Pope St. John Paul II expressed it like this:
“The basic attitude of hope, on the one hand encourages the Christian not to lose sight of the final goal which gives meaning and value to life, and on the other, offers solid and profound reasons for a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God’s
“Our hope is strengthened and fulfilled when we see the world around us with the eyes of faith.”
As we commemorate our Congregation’s 300 years of foundation in a historical moment which presents great challenges for the church and religious life, we must re-find hope. Without true hope, we will not feel energized; we will not feel excitingly alive; we will lack energy and a compelling vision. When we re-find true Christian hope, when we experience the powerful presence and work of God all around and in us, we will become alive with the
Spirit, we will bring life to others and be generators of life in its many forms, and we will be united in a joy that is attractive and convincing.
“I know the plans I have in mind for you… plans for peace, not disaster, a future full of hope for you” (Jer. 29:11).
Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope
“The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith.
We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved.
We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed.
We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love.
The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters and let us allow hope to be rekindled. […] Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.”
Pope Francis, Homily, Extraordinary Moment of Prayer, 27 March 2020.
“A prayer in despair and hope
If God is speaking to us through our present experience, why is it that I cannot hear you?
- In the locked-in home of the woman beaten and bruised by her violent partner
- In the disturbed schedule of the autistic child who craves a certain and reassuring routine
- In the cast away bottles of the struggling alcoholic separated from the support of her group
- In the empty crematorium as a loved one’s coffin enters the burners with only echoes in attendance
- In the hollow grave as a dead child is lowered before an absent, grieving family
- In the bed of the infected care worker gasping for breath
- In the exhaustion of the doctor working an endless shift
- In the pain of the nurse switching off the life support equipment
- In the refugee camp fighting to keep the virus out of its tents
- In the bemused gaze of the East African farmer staring at another failed crop, and fearing what next
I do not hear your voice speaking to me in any of these places. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
But, my God, perhaps when you were speaking to me, I wasn’t listening. Those times, and they were often enough, when you spoke and told me…
To look after the weak
To tend to the sick
To shelter the homeless
To feed the hungry
To protect the poor
To love my neighbour
To give up all I had…
…so that we would build a society that cared for its weakest members, a society that promoted health and not wealth, that valued service not profit, that sought justice in our relationships together, and not power and privilege, that provided for the common good and our common home, and not our individual gain.
If I had listened, I would not have stopped this virus, but I might have better provided for the communion of our saints, those in the National Health Service, those in our care homes, those key workers tending to the dying, keeping us alive. I might have helped them with more resources, a willingness to pay more taxes; I might have helped them with more respect for the dignity of their labour; and with gratitude before the event, and not during and after it. I might have looked further to feed the world. I might have tried harder to stop wars. I might have lived out some decent values that translated into some decent actions. I might have truly loved my neighbour.
O that yesterday I had listened to your voice, and hardened not my heart.
My God, my God, why have I forsaken you? Forgive me; o that today I will listen to your voice.”
The devastating impact of the Coronavirus pandemic worldwide dominates the May 2020 edition of the NW NJPN E Bulletin with reports, reflections and opinion pieces from a range of sources. Green issues are also featured with prayer resources and prize-winning articles from the Columban’s recent competition for young people on the theme ‘Tackling Our Throwaway Culture’.
Lots to read during lockdown! Do take care.
You can read the May issue by clicking here.