"Hope in God; For I Shall Again Praise Him"

The last post I wrote was on Pope Benedict's book about Europe and his Encyclical, "Spe Salvi," about man's moral capacity compared to his present scientific progress. The Holy Father says that if our moral energy is not equal to scientific advancement then we begin to do things not because we ought but because we can. Disaster always follows this imbalance. After briefly looking at some of the atrocities committed because of this imbalance, we asked how we are to hope. That is what I am attempting to explain in this post.

As we all know, technological advancement has brought hitherto unthinkable benefits to humanity, but it has also brought hitherto unthinkable threats, such as nuclear weapons. Our question becomes, what is our hope in a world full of weak individuals with seemingly unlimited potential for destruction? When we speak of hope, it must first and foremost offer an answer to man's greatest nemesis, namely suffering and death. All things fade into their proper places in light of this ultimate mystery, where man stands seemingly helpless before that which he is powerless on his own to overcome.

Therefore, we must find something upon which to rest our lives that is greater than death. It is here that we must turn to God. It is here that man's greatness and transcendence become clear. All systems that propose to solve man's problems by political, economic or other structures and that only remedy man on the material level will fail. There is, and everyone has experienced it in some form, an infinite thirst in the heart of man for a love that will not fail him. A love that is so unconditional that it, despite the present conditions of sins, vices and other misgivings, still loves. This love must even walk with man through his greatest fear, which is death. We as Christians know that this love has a face: Jesus Christ. Let's look at two concrete examples of the love of Christ; one in the Scriptures and one from a Saint.

Hebrews 11:34 says: "For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one." The Hebrews joyfully accepted the "plundering of their property" because they knew that this world and its pains and "the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rm 8:18) They knew that their lives were "hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3) and that he has promised to raise us on the last day. (Jn 6:44) What possibly then could give us reason to despair? For the present life is "like grass... in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. (Psalm 90:5-6). Must we work to better this world while we are here? Absolutely, for we will be judged on how we loved the "least." (Mt 25:40) If our life is founded upon the rock who is Christ then we have every reason to hope. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Mt 7:25)

The next story is about a 19th century Saint, named Josephine Bakhita, from Sudan. She ended up a slave and was moved from master to master during the first 13 years of her life. Throughout this time she received 144 beatings, each one of which left scars. She was in a hopeless situation like nothing most of us could ever imagine. However, in 1882 she was transferred to an Italian merchant living in Venice. It was here that she learned about a master unlike any of the terrifying masters that she had met before in her life and "...she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron”, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants." (Spe Salvi, 3) She would write during those years of Jesus, “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” "On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters..." (Spe Salvi, 3)

In the end, there is one thing, the one thing necessary (Lk 10:42) and that is the love of God. Here we find the definitive hope and the love that goes beyond death; the font of life giving water that quenches every human desire. "Spe salvi facti sumus!" (Rm 8:24) "By hope we have been saved!"