Third Sunday of Lent—15 March AD 2009
[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Mass Text]
[Latin Mass Text]
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
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.”
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
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.”
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
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.”
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.