Hope

Mary and I are currently watching Fr. Maurice Emelu’s parish mission series in the Cameroon Words for a Wounded World on EWTN.  Fr. Emelu is a young Nigerian priest who is a tremendous preacher with an edifying yet winsome style.  I heard some of his for me timely words about the subject of hope that I would like to share.  There is a lot going on in our world today that can beckon one towards despair, so the theological virtue of hope is a powerful antidote.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1817):

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” [Heb 10:23] “The Holy Spirit… he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” [Titus 3:6-7] 

Some Western bishops were visiting an African colleague, and one commented that despite the often dire poverty if not outright destitution of the Africans they met, they seemed so at peace, happy, and fulfilled.  The bishop replied it was because they had hope: not hope in a better material life on this earth, but a hope in their relationship with God and confidence that He had something better planned for them in Heaven.  It is ironic in Western culture, with so much physical comfort and other goods at our disposal, there is so much unhappiness and turmoil.

Sins against hope at one end of the spectrum are presumption, and at the other end despair. Presumption is emphasizing God’s mercy and de-emphasizing His justice.  Those “a merciful God would not send anyone to Hell” people are being presumptuous.  Those disposed towards despair emphasize God’s justice at the expense of confidence in God’s mercy.  Sanctity is a confidence in a balance between the two.  I would say for myself the Tempter likes to use his Black and Decker Despair Drill on me: I can get the blues pretty easily, which is why I found Fr. Emelu’s homily on hope so uplifting.  Every time one prays the Rosary – which our Blessed Mother encourages us to do every day – we ask to be instilled with the virtue of hope.  I’ll end this with 1818 of the Catechism, which is enlightening on why those Africans are so joyful even in their worldly want:

The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.

God bless, and pray for our country today,

Tom

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