Monday, January 11, 2016

The Virtue of Hope

A person of hope is a life raft to those drowning in sorrow.
“Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.” – Pope Francis I

What Is a Virtue?

“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 7.1803
Hope is a good thing. When people are suffering and down on their luck, a person of hope is a life raft to those drowning in sorrow. When people are feeling doubt and discouragement, a person of hope lifts them up, reminds them that they are loved, and encourages them to persevere. Hope breathes new life into a dead situation, restores energy, instills purpose, and gives meaning.

It requires a conscious effort of the will to smile and bring comfort to others when your own life is in shambles and you have nothing going for you except your knowledge that God loves you, but that is what makes hope a virtue. Hope as a virtue means focusing on tending to the suffering of others rather than insisting that others bring you comfort.

What Is a Theological Virtue?

“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.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 7.II.1817
Theological virtues are the wellspring from which the other virtues flow. They are the source of your ability to do good when it would be easier to choose to give in to your own passions. Hope, firmly implanted in the heart, allows you to find the good in what is evil, to find light in the darkness, and to choose to love someone else past the unlovable behavior they may be displaying.

Why Is It Important to Tend Virtues?

Hope is a gift from God, but like all of God’s gifts there is work for man to do in order to gain its greatest benefits. It is not an object which may be safely stuck on a shelf and left untended or forgotten. It is a living thing which must be cultivated, nourished, and tended to so that it may grow to its fullest capacity.

You can never fully lose hope, because God will never take His gifts back from us, but you can reach a point where you push those gifts away and turn your back on them. Hope is like a rain barrel. It allows you to capture the love of God that showers down around you like a gentle rain. However, there are things you can do that impede the ability of hope to help you.

You can deliberately turn hope upside down by treating it like a curse and therefore remove your ability to see or to benefit from God’s free gift of love. You can deny that hope exists, so that even if hope does collect God’s love for you, you aren’t going to acknowledge it or put it to use in your life.

You can also allow it to be blown over by the storms of life so that it makes it harder for God’s love to reach you. Or you can choose to hold fast to the barrel of hope no matter how hard the wind blows and refuse to allow it to be torn out of your grasp. It’s up to you.

What is the difference between a virtue and a gift?

A gift gives you the desire to do what is good, a virtue allows you to act on that desire. Imagine that you receive a gift which teaches you a thousand beautiful things you can create with yarn. That book inspires you to want to learn to make those things. A gift is that inspiration.

However, in order to transform your desire into reality, there are steps you must take. You must put the information in that book into action. Otherwise, the desire will remain just a desire. Virtues are the desire that guides you in transforming your desire into reality.

Gifts and virtues go hand-in-hand. Without the gifts, you won’t desire the right things. Without the desire, you won’t search for ways to transform your desires into reality.

How can hope be a virtue and a gift at the same time?

All virtues are gifts from God. The ability to do good, the desire to do it, comes from God. That is what makes hope both a gift and a virtue at the same time. Hope leads you to desire better things, and that desire sparks you to pursue them. It leads you to search for God even if you are ignorant of His existence and even if you are not aware that this is what you are doing, and makes you restless until you find Him.
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” - St. Augustine

Nothing you find on this earth will satisfy your hope. It will all fall short and it will all, ultimately, disappoint you. The better thing you saw today will not be good enough once obtained. The only thing that will satisfy hope’s desire for better things is to find your way to Heaven, which is the best possible thing.

Tomorrow: Hope and God's Love

Tomorrow, I'll explore the relationship between hope and God's love for you. I'll talk about faith's role in cultivating hope, and why hope is so hard to hold onto even though it's instilled in the heart of every human being. I'll also be talking about how you can be sure that growing closer to God will help you in your ability to hold on to hope.

Know Someone Who Could Use Some Hope?

If you know someone who could use some extra hope in their life, share this on your favorite social media site. You could change someone's life for the better, and it only takes a few seconds to share.

If you're just joining me

This is the second chapter in a book I'm writing. You can catch up by clicking the link: Daily Dose of Hope. That post will explain the reason for, and the nature of, the book that I'm writing. If you bookmark that page, you can come back each day to find the next chapter.

Share Your Thoughts

I'd love to hear from you on what you thought about this chapter. Leave a comment below and let me know. Was there something here that stuck with you? Something that angered or upset you? Let's talk about it. 

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