All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action. This is so first of all in the sense that we thereby strive to realize our lesser and greater hopes, to complete this or that task which is important for our onward journey, or we work towards a brighter and more humane world so as to open doors into the future. Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance.
If we cannot hope for more than is effectively attainable at any given time, or more than is promised by political or economic authorities, our lives will soon be without hope. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere.
Spe Salvi 35
Reflection – What are you hoping for right now? What are the 'lesser and greater hopes' that fill your mind and heart? It’s good to consider that question, isn’t it? And of course, the answer can be found by looking at what we are doing, what we are working at, where our serious efforts are being expended. ‘All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action.’
So right now I’m hoping that the book I wrote which is being published in October finds a readership, so I’m working on the final editing and other arrangements for it; I’m hoping that the book I’m just starting to write is a good book, so I’m working hard on the research for it; I hope my directees, those who come to me for spiritual direction, become saints, so I work (and pray) to help them move God-wards; I hope Madonna House flourishes in every good way, so I work each day towards that flourishing.
Those are my hopes. And you could easily identify your hopes in a similar fashion. What do you work towards each day?
But then, what if my books bomb, all my directees walk away from God/the Church/my direction, and Madonna House falls apart? Any of which could happen, of course. We are not in a world where everything just works out lovely all the time, to put it mildly.
This is why this other greater hope has to run through all our lesser hopes. This strange hope, wholly supernatural in origin and goal, this theological virtue of hope which holds and perfects all our human hopes. The Pope puts it so very well here: “It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance.”
Our lives and our actions in life are held by the indestructible power of Love. So if I am at least trying to love, if I am trying to do something because it is a good thing to do, a service to my brothers and sisters, an offering to God, then even if the immediate action ‘fails’ according to my human observation and reckoning, the love within it does not fail.
Love never fails. Not because human love is some all-powerful force, but because human love is met by divine love. God comes to us, to each of us, and wants to take up our little human efforts and works and plans into His divine, perfect, and eternal plans and works.
This is the whole path of faith in the world. Faith that God is real, present, active and alive and faithful; faith that God desires our happiness; faith that bears fruit, then, in hope that our lives will not fail, not fall short, not end in tragedy and despair. And so we can keep loving, keep going, no matter what is happening in our lives. God is with us, and so we always have hope, even if the sky should fall and everything around us crumble into dust, even if our hearts are broken and all our dreams shattered.