Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Act of Hope

From faith flows hope. Faith is the conduit through which all graces flow. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Unbelief clogs up the conduit of faith. The more we become enhanced with the world, its treasures, its pleasures, the more the conduit of faith becomes clogged, the more we lose hope, the more we drift away from Christ. The more we disagree with the Church, the more we fall into unbelief.

“My Lord and God! Because Thou art almighty, infinitely good and merciful, I hope that by the merits of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Thou wilt grant me eternal life, which Thou hast promised to all who shall do the works of a good Christian, as I purpose to do by Thy help” (General Catholic Devotions, Bonaventure Hammer).

“Because Thou are almighty…” “God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (‘I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’): finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins” (Par 270, CCC). “God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his friendship by grace. ‘God, you show your almighty power above all in your mercy and forgiveness…’ (Roman Missal, 26th Sunday, Opening Prayer)” (Par 277, CCC).

“…infinitely good…” Holy Writ tells us that God is love. “Infinitely good” tells us that God is love without bounds, overflowing love. There are many who believe that, because of Jesus’ passion and death, He will save us regardless. This cannot be. Love knows no evil. If sin is to be “winked” at, there can be no love, there can be no justice, no good. Because God is “infinitely good,” He desired that His creation be redeemed. Because He is “infinitely good,” He condescended to mankind, to allow His only begotten Son to be born of woman, to become Man, to bear the sins of His creation, to die, in order to reconcile us to Himself. “‘We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him.’ The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth: St. Catherine of Siena said to ‘those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them:’ ‘Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.’ St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: ‘Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.’ Dame Julian of Norwich: ‘Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith... and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time - that 'all manner [of] thing shall be well'" (Par 313, CCC). "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him… For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Par 2012, CCC).

“…and merciful…” All of Scripture and Tradition attests to this. To doubt this is to deny this, to deny Scripture, deny Christ, to deny God.

“…I hope…” Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is something solid, concrete, although it has not yet arrived. Loss of hope and loss of faith run together. If you lose one, you lose the other. “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.’ ‘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.’ 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” (Par 1817-1818, CCC). “Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the ‘hope that does not disappoint.’ Hope is the ‘sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…that enters… where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.’ Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: ‘Let us…put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.’ It affords us joy even under trial: ‘Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.’ Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire” (Par 1820, CCC).

“…that by the merits of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Thou wilt grant me eternal life, which Thou hast promised to all who shall do the works of a good Christian, as I purpose to do by Thy help.” This can only be done by God’s grace. He knows my fragility. St. Peter denied Christ, but Christ had prayed from him, and St. Peter repented. Jesus also prayed for me. Our Blessed Mother intercedes for me; all the saints intercede for me. Christ instituted the Mass not because we are strong but because we are weak. Because of our weakness, He gave us the Sacraments. They are not given that I might continue in that same weakness, but to strengthen me. I think of the Eucharist, the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. Can I continue to eat the body of Christ and not be strengthened, not grow? Although I will not attain perfection in this lifetime, I must continue in steady growth. I must now allow myself to think, “I do not have to try to do anything; He will make me grow.” This would be presumptuousness, causing death, causing me to perish. We are told to take up our crosses, that we would face persecution. The desert is full of perils, but I am protected—as long as I do not lose hope. I must retain in my mind that whatever occurs to me is by the providence of God. It is not for my evil, but for my good. It is either to bring me to repentance or to increase my faith—or both. TT