With the Holy Father’s first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" or “God is Love”, It seems that he is continuing on the theme of the three Theological Virtues – Faith, Hope, and Love (Charity).
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen more buzz about the upcoming encyclical like we did for the first (at least not in the circle I travel in). I can’t help but assume that the reason is the subject – Hope.
Everyone knows what faith and love are, but hope is often seen as the misunderstood middle child. While Faith and Love (the greatest of these) seem to jockey for the faithful’s attention, Hope ends up being overlooked, misunderstood, and ignored.
“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…” - CCC 1817I think it’s a given that it’s more difficult for a Catholic to accept the gifts of faith and love than it is Hope because Faith and Love demand something from us whereas Hope gives something to us; a promise of eternal peace, happiness and meaning.
So why is Hope grouped with the other two?
When you look at the world you don’t have to try very hard to see it’s full of sin. But look harder, just past that sin and you will find a world full of broken people. People filled with sadness and despair, people suffering and afraid, people angry and alone.
In a world fallen and filled with incredible sadness, Hope begins to shine. And it’s to these people most of all that God extends this gift of Hope.
It’s God’s way of telling us to hold fast, that we have not been forgotten. A promise that this world is not our home, but only a stop along the way. It’s a reminder that good can comet from bad and that redemption flowed from suffering.
For the faithful, Hope reminds us to keep our eyes on that goal of spending eternity happy with God no matter how difficult things get, and the strength to persevere in dark times. The author of Hebrews speaks of Hope as, “an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil”.
Make sure to remember to check the encyclical out tomorrow, it just may be what a hurting and disbelieving world needs. And with Advent starting this Sunday, I can't think of a more fitting message.
And here it is.