In December 2016, Pope Francis delivered the third part of his series of teachings on the theme of Christian Hope. During this General Audience he gave us a good foundation upon which to explore more deeply what we understand Christian hope to be saying the following,
“for a Christian, to hope means the certainty of being on a journey with Christ toward the Father who awaits us. Hope is never still, hope is always journeying, and it makes us journey.
In hope we were saved… (Romans 8:24)
In other words, walking in this world, with hope, we are saved. Here we can each ask ourselves the question, am I walking with hope or is my interior life static, closed? Is my heart a locked drawer or a drawer open to hope which enables me to walk not alone but with Jesus?
When we speak of hope, it often refers to what is not in humanity’s power to realise, which is invisible. In fact, what we hope for goes beyond our strength and our perception.”
To read this General Audience from Pope Francis in full, click here.
Why is Hope so Important?
Whether we think about it or not, hope is an important part of everyone’s life. We all hope for something, it is an inherent part of being human, it helps us define what we want in our future. Regardless of how we see the world or where we come from, hope is vital to being human. Often people associate hope with a dire situation, but hope can also be the key to making everyday life better. Hope can make the challenges of life easier to carry. Hope links your past and present to your future, you have a vision of what might happen.
Hope vs. Optimism
Hope is not the same as optimism. Pope Francis has warned us against confusing optimism with hope saying, “optimism is a psychological attitude toward life. Hope is also theological: God is there too.”
If things in life don’t go the way that we expected, relying only on optimism is likely not enough. Hope, however, exists in spite of negative outcomes, because God is the author of our hope. When hope is deeply rooted in our being, even the most challenging of circumstances can still be looked at with eyes of possibility. The truly hopeful person knows that they are not facing the journey alone.
In light of our understanding that hope is vital to being human and recognising its distinction from optimism, it is helpful to explore in more depth the specific understanding of Christian hope.
Hope is one of the three theological or supernatural virtues that provide Christians a framework within which to live out our moral values. The three theological virtues come from 1 Corinthians 13:13, “and now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to the theological virtue of hope saying that it is through hope that “we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life… 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 1817).
The Catechism goes on to say that the virtue of hope “responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every person.” That it takes up the hopes that inspire our activities, keeps us from discouragement and opens up our hearts (CCC 1818).
What does Hope mean to you?
We want to know what hope means to people from across the Diocese of Palmerston North. How do you live with hope? Where do you find hope in your own life?
We invite you to submit your own reflection on hope below. We will look to collate some of these reflections and publish them in an upcoming article.