Sometimes we feel lost and discouraged because we feel helpless in the face of so much evil and we believe that the darkness will never end. We worry about the brothers who are most at risk of losing hope and falling into despair. We are waiting for something or someone to save us from so many negative actions that go against the dignity of the human person. Obviously, we need hope!
What is hope and how is it cultivated? Hope is a virtue. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1803 & 1813), virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good. It is a sensitive and spiritual force that drives us to perform good acts and give our best through concrete actions. Hope is one of the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. Theological virtues have their origin, motive and object in God and refer directly to God. They are infused by God into the soul of the faithful to make us able to act like children of God deserving eternal life and preparing us, Christians, to live in intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity. The theological virtues are the guarantee of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our human faculties. Through these theological virtues we participate in the divine nature that is love, we place our trust in the promises of Christ and rely on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
From this perspective, we can say, with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that “man is alive while waiting, while hope is alive in his heart.” (Angelus, November 28, 2010). Hence the importance of us Christians constantly begging God for the gift of hope. Pope Francis in the book “Called to Sow Hope” tells us not to let hope leave us, because God walks with each one of us. It is of profound help that Pope Francis advises each of us to accept and constantly say: “I hope, I have hope because God walks with me and leads me by the hand.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in the encyclical letter Spe Salvi, proposes three “places” for learning, exercising and gaining strength from Christian hope. The first “place” is prayer. In the intimate and personal dialogue with God we take our experience of reality to a Father who listens and speaks to us. Frequent contact with God, in prayer, revives and renews our hope because we approach with the conviction that God always hears and notices our supplications.
The second “place” is the righteousness of work and suffering. Pain and physical, moral and spiritual sufferings are common realities to our human existence. In accepting the tribulations with faith and hope we find a path of maturation and purification from which suffering acquires an authentic meaning in the light of the mystery of Christ, helping us to face the sufferings with realism and without despair.
The third “place” is the constant reflection on the final judgment. This reflection on the reality of judgment helps us to order our present life for the future, for eternity; understanding that when death comes, our destiny is eternal life.
In conclusion, “man needs God, otherwise he is hopeless” (Spe Salvi, n. 23). Only God can completely fulfill all our desires and hopes.
Questions for reflection:
What stood out for me from this article? What are my hopes? What is in my heart?
Maria Covarrubias is the Director of the Diocesan Department of Ministry of Educational Services.