Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Hope in Troubled Times
Recently a woman who is good friend of mine and with whom I have been in regular correspondence wrote to me of the following concern: "I'm worried about the future. There is so much pain, mental illness, family breakdown and loss of faith. We need God now more than ever. We need a moral compass."
She is absolutely correct in making this assertion. I share in it 100%. The challenge for us is to answer the question, "What do we do about it?" The answer, I believe, is to call on the Lord to fill us with Christian hope. Hope, along with faith and love (charity) is one of the three theological virtues, virtues given us by God and that relate us to God. But what is hope? I'll begin by saying what it is not. It is not optimism. Optimism is based on actual reasons which point to a positive outcome. It is the proverbial belief that "the glass is half full." The Catechism of the Church, # 1818, defines hope in the following way,"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."
Practically speaking how does this play itself out in our everyday lives. I suggest the following:
1. It gives us the courage to face the truth of what is going on, to move beyond denial and a polyanna approach to the world. There are problems in our nation, in the world and even in the Church. From a strictly human perspective they threaten to swallow us up, but because we believe in the promise of the Reign of God we can face them believing that though evil may have its' moments it will not prevail.
2. Hope gives us the courage to act, to speak out, even though doing so may lead us to persecution, imprisonment and even death.
3. Even though everything we hold dear may shatter and fall apart Hope teaches us not that there won't be problems, sickness or even failure, but that a loving God will lead us through these things to something better, ultimately to eternal life, but even short of heaven there will be something good on the other side of the problem. This is the real challenge because at times it is so difficult to believe that.
4, Remember that there is nowhere in the Bible where God says that if you have deep faith, live a good life and pray everyday that there won't be problems. It does basically say that if we do these things God will not abandon us.
Not long ago a writer defined hope "not as believing that the glass is half full, but rather as believing that when it is bone-dry and empty that God will bring something good from it." (a paraphrase of an overheard quote.)
So let us with eyes wide open look at the daunting problems that face us and walk in hope with uplifted heads.
Finally, I will add, that there are signs of optimism as well, signs such as the deep faith of the Catholic students at Troy University here in Troy, AL where I am working this week. There are many others as well.