I Wanna Know What Hope Is

14 Mar

faith hope loveThere was a popular song by the rock band Foreigner some years ago entitled, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” I think the song title is reflective of the thirst we all have to know and experience true love, which can be so elusive in light of all the counterfeits that surround us.

While there are no hit songs about it, I think we also want to know what hope is. So many people go through the day without realizing that there is hope for them. Others have given way to despair or presumption (cf. Catechism, nos. 2091-92).

For those of us who want to know what hope is, we have the following passage from St. Paul (Phil. 3:12-14) as part of the second reading at Mass this Sunday. For my money, it is the most profound reflection on Christian hope found in all of Scripture:

It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it,
since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

St. Thomas teaches us that hope is oriented toward a future, difficult good. Let’s briefly look at that from the perspective of natural hope. Hope deals with the future, as it wouldn’t make sense to hope for something that has already happened. Hope deals with the difficult, or at least uncertain. I don’t hope that tomorrow is Friday, because there’s no reasonable chance (barring the Second Coming!) of tomorrow not being Friday. And hope pertains to the good, as we only hope for things that at least seem good to us.

Let’s take it up a notch, and see how this applies to the theological virtue of hope, which helps those of us who have not yet reached “the prize of God’s upward calling” (Phil. 3:14; cf. Catechism, nos. 1817-21). Our hope is ordered to the future. We have been reborn in Christ, but we still haven’t reached our eternal destination. Our hope pertains to the difficult, or uncertain (in fact, the humanly impossible–see Mt. 19:25-26). Now this one can be tricky, as we joyfully affirm that God is true to His promises. We can count on His gracious assistance. The difficulty or uncertainty comes into play because of human freedom. Even though God offers us heaven, we remain free to reject Him through unrepented mortal sin. We all must persevere through some spiritual battles before happily coming to the end of our earthly pilgrimage.

And finally our hope is ordered to our ultimate good, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard (1 Cor. 2:9).

So in these remaining days of Lent, as we embrace our new Holy Father Francis, let’s strain forward to what lies ahead, as we redouble our commitment to our beloved Savior.

2 Responses to “I Wanna Know What Hope Is”

  1. rwarnell March 19, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    Leon – I have come to the conclusion after seven decades that we have placed so much emphasis on an escape plan from our earthly existence that we tend to lose sight of Jesus’ prayer that His Father’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Hope applies just as much to the hope and expectation that God’s reign will come and all of creation will be renewed.

    I find when people finally realize they are made in God’s image, are citizens of the Kingdom here and now, and their mission is to work with God in giving birth to that kingdom, it makes a whole lot of difference in their thinking and behavior.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Leon Suprenant March 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Nice comment. Christian hope walks a fine line between “already” and “not yet.” We can’t live as though this is all that there is (already) or as though we’re simply in heaven’s waiting room (not yet). Rather, our hope in the life to come, in a “new heavens and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), ought to invest our lives on earth with added meaning and significance, as everything is caught up in God’s redeeming work.That’s a central message of Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, which was strongly influenced by the participation of Karol Wojtyla, who of course became Pope John Paul II.

    One way to look at it: Two guys are driving on the highway. One is just out for a drive with no destination. He’s just bored and “killing time” before KU’s next basketball game. The other guy is on his way to his son’s wedding–a beloved son whom he hasn’t seen for a long time, and many of his friends and family members will be there. Would we say because of the second man’s destination that he cares less about the drive? I don’t think so. Rather, I should think because of where he’s going, the second man’s drive is invested with even greater meaning and significance. I think in the same way our lives as Christians should have greater purpose, meaning, and urgency by virtue of our “hope.”

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