by Clemens Pater
The sign of Christian Hope is the Resurrection of Jesus. It is His victory over sin and death. It is the pledge and promise that, if we follow Him faithfully in carrying the Cross, we can also rise with Him to new life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love Him and do His will.” (CCC. no. 1821) Hope is that Theological Virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises…” (CCC. no. 1817)
Hope then doesn’t see the full mystery of heaven, but relies on Christ and His promises. He told us that if we wished to be His disciples we must take up our Cross and follow Him. (Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23) His Cross was the path to heaven.
The Human person has an immortal soul. It will not dissolve or disappear after our death. With the resurrection of our bodies, we will live forever. Although we may be purified in purgatory, our ultimate destination is heaven or hell. Our goal, of course, is to get to heaven. The alternative is unthinkable! Christ shows us the way and promises us that it is possible
The path to heaven, St Thomas teaches is both arduous and attainable. These two characteristics of real hope correspond – we might say they are the antidote – to the two main sins against hope: presumption and despair.
Despair is ready to give up; to abandon all hope. Despair forgets that, as long as we have breath, the promises of Christ are still attainable. They are still within reach. God’s grace may be found through true repentance. God desires that all will be saved, but He has given us free will. We can choose to follow His path, or walk away from Him and from the life of eternal happiness in heaven. Hope says, heaven is still attainable. Don’t despair. Don’t give up!
Presumption says, “God is forgiving!” (This is true, of course.) Presumption says, “God is so merciful that He would never condemn anyone to hell.” This is contrary to the Church’s defined teaching found in the Catechism, “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ … eternal separation from God.” (CCC. no. 1035)
Presumption is the sin against Hope which denies the arduous, difficult, path that leads to eternal life. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt 7:13-14, as quoted in CCC. no 1036).
God is certainly merciful. His mercy is most powerfully expressed and offered in the Sacrament of Confession. There we may receive the reassurance that when we repent of our sins, and receive the absolution of the priest, our sins are forgiven. It is there in Confession that God receives our sincere expression of sorrow, and “He casts into the depths of the sea our sins.” (Mic 7:19)
We have reason to hope in the Promises of Christ. To follow Our Lord is demanding, but attainable because of the divine assistance of Grace. He calls us to “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel,” (formula for the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday)
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Excerpt from The Glories of Mary, St Alphonsus Ligouri. Chapter 3, Section 1. Mary Is the Hope of All.
“The angelic Doctor St. Thomas says that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause, and as a mediate one. Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it from him as lord; they hope for it from his minister as an intercessor ….
The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires to enrich us with His graces; but because confidence is required on our part, and in order to increase it, He has given us His own Mother to be our Mother and Advocate, and to her He has given all power to help us. … Those who place their hope in creatures alone, independently of God, … in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage His Divine Majesty. … But those who hope in Mary as Mother of God, … are truly blessed and acceptable to the heart of God, … for she loved and honored Him in this world more than all men and angels put together. And therefore we justly and reasonably call the Blessed Virgin, ‘Spes Nostra, Our Hope.’”