Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Third Sunday of Lent—15 March AD 2009
On Hope

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Mass Text]
[Latin Mass Text]
[Lenten Observance]

    Of the theological virtues—the virtues that move us into closer and closer union with God, and prepare us for happiness with Him in heaven—the second virtue is Hope.  Of course, we can hope for many different things—perhaps for good marks on an examination, for a new job, for new friends, or whatever.  But the theological virtue of Hope is concerned with only one thing:  Hope is the virtue which enables us to trust that Almighty God will give us whatever helps and abilities we need for our salvation.  Hope, then, is simply trusting that if we make a sincere effort, we will one day repose with God in Heaven.

    The authenticity of this Hope was demonstrated many centuries ago in the Garden of Eden.  After creating the world and everything therein, God said:  “Let us make man to our image and likeness....  And God created man to his own image ... male and female he created them. And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat....[1]  Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat:  But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat.  For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.”[2]

    But, as we know, Adam did eat of the forbidden fruit, and found himself standing naked before the God whom he had just disobeyed.  He blamed it on Eve (and, indirectly, on God):  “The woman, whom Thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”  And Eve, in turn, blamed it on the serpent, the Devil: “The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.”[3]

    Now, just imagine, for a moment, the plight of Adam.  Up to this time he wanted for nothing.  Everything he needed came to him with little or no effort.  He lived in harmony with God and with his surroundings.  But now, he found himself cast out from all of this, the most primitive man in all the world, finding himself possessed of absolutely nothing, and not immediately knowing just how angry God might become over his transgression.  Having offended God who is everything, this man with nothing had no means to make amends.

    But then, the virtue of Hope entered the world.  God did not cast off Adam and his descendants.  He did not simply ignore the human race, but promised the that He would send One who would crush the Devil who spoke to Eve through the serpent:  “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[4]  God would send the Blessed Virgin Mary, and together with her Son Jesus Christ, sin would be crushed, and men and women could live once again in harmony with God.

    And, “in the fullness of time,” He sent His only Son to be born as one of us, to live amongst us, showing us the kind of life we must live in order to gain Heaven.  He allowed His Son even to die for us, so that we might appreciate the horrible nature of sin—and then raised that Son from the dead, thereby triumphing over sin and death.

    And our Lord promised that He would share His resurrection with those who believed and followed Him:  “And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day....  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.”[5]  Thus, we have a very good reason for Hope, for it is clear that our Lord was and is vitally interested in our salvation!

    The necessity of Hope is one of the reasons why holy Mass is so important for us.  The Mass and Holy Communion are our chief source of the sanctifying grace which bestows the theological virtues upon us.  The Mass and the liturgical year help us to remember the life of Christ and His work for our salvation.  The Church’s year is placed before us in Scripture and in ceremony:  the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, Advent, Christmas, a collection of Gospels describing Our Lord’s life, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost.  In a certain sense, we live out our Lord’s life as we go from day to day in each liturgical year.  And in doing so, our Hope of salvation will become stronger and stronger.

    Before I close, I must mention that there are two ways to sin against, or abuse, the virtue of Hope.

    The first of these is the sin of presumption.  Presumption means taking advantage of God’s desire for our salvation—committing sin with the idea that it is easy to gain forgiveness—or doing nothing to avoid the occasions where we are likely to be tempted to sin.  It is taking the attitude that “it is God’s job to keep me from sinning.”  God wants us to be saved, and He offers us all of the graces we need, but it is still up to us to cooperate with Him and His graces to ensure our salvation.  Don’t make the spiritually fatal mistake of presumption.

    The other sin against Hope is the sin of despair—making up ones’ mind that it is just too difficult to get to heaven—telling one’s self that “I can never make it because I am too sinful and too weak.”  Do not despise the power of God—He can and will give you the graces necessary for salvation if you will but make a decent effort.  This sin of despair is one of the Devil’s chief means of assaulting souls—if he can get you to believe that you have no Hope of salvation, you probably won’t even try.  Don’t make the spiritually fatal mistake of despair.

    Finally, let us remember that God has promised us what we require to earn a place with Him in Heaven.  We cans strengthen our Hope by regularly and intelligently participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in our other prayers.

    Remember, too, that Hope, like all of the virtues is a “via media”—a walking of the “middle road” between presumption and despair—walking, so to speak, down the “white line” of trust in God.  A line which we must carefully walk until it brings us to our natural destiny—an eternity of happiness with Almighty God in Heaven.



[1]   Genesis i: 26-29.

[2]   Genesis ii: 16-17.

[3]   Genessi iii: 12-13.

[4]   Genesis iii: 15.

[5]   John vi: 40, 55.



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