Sunday, July 10, 2011

Two Kinds of Hope

In what does this hope consist which, as hope, is “redemption”? The essence of the answer is given in the phrase from the Letter to the Ephesians: the Ephesians, before their encounter with Christ, were without hope because they were “without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.
                                                                                                                                         Spe Salvi 3

Reflection – Hope, according to Aquinas, is the natural emotion that arises within us in regard to an object that has four qualities. It is in the future (i.e. you cannot hope for something you already have), is good (you cannot hope for a stomach flu, unless you reallllly want to miss work), is difficult (someone in normal health doesn’t really hope that they will be able to walk across the room), but nonetheless possible (I neither believe nor hope that I can fly, or thereby touch the sky).
This is natural hope – hoping to graduate summa cum laude or to make a million dollars or have a good time at a cocktail party (oh wait, I don’t think that last one is actually possible…)
Theological hope is of a different order – it is hope that the outcome of our life will be in accord with our divinely intended end. Hope that we will attain eternal beatitude. Hope that God is going to make of us a divine success story.
Natural hope energizes us to work hard to attain the difficult future possible goods that we anticipate. But we cannot possibly attain beatitude ourselves, no matter how hard we try, and so theological hope enables us to keep our eyes, and hearts, and whole person fixed on God who alone can save us and raise us up. It is entirely theological in its character – its whole dynamism is to bring us to seek and cling to the Lord in all things.
To know this God is to know hope. As Pope Benedict says, for we who are Christians this is so huge and constantly present a reality that we forget how radical it is, how radical it was in the ancient world that received the Christian proclamation. The assurance that God is our loving Father, that he sent his Son to become a man to be our loving Savior, that his Holy Spirit moves over and through and within us constantly to hold us in a deep union with Himself—this is radical stuff, strong meat for the soul.
As the world seems to be more and more in danger of a total forgetfulness of the Christian proclamation, more and more Christian hope that God can and will make our lives beautiful and glorious forever becomes our most urgent virtue.
There is a lot of despair in the world; do you have hope? How are you sharing it?

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