A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Hope … keeps life upright

I would like to reflect with you on the enemies of hope, because hope has its enemies, as every good in this world has its enemies.

And there came to mind the ancient myth of Pandora’s box. The opening of the box set off so many disasters for the history of the world. Few, however, remember the last part of the story, which brings a chink of light. After all the evils came out of the mouth of the box, a miniscule gift seems to take form in the face of all that evil that is spilling out. Pandora, the woman who is guarding the box, perceives the gift. The Greeks call it elpis, which means hope.

This myth tells us why hope is so important for humanity. It’s not true that “so long as there is life there is hope,” as is usually said. If anything, it’s the contrary. It is hope that keeps life upright, that protects it, guards it, and makes it grow. If people had not cultivated hope, if they were not supported by this virtue, they would never have come out of the caves, and would have left no trace in the history of the world. Hope is the most divine thing that can exist in human hearts.

People's hope fills God with wonder

A French poet, Charles Péguy, has left us wonderful pages on hope (See The Portal of the Mystery of Hope). He says, poetically, that God is not so astonished by the faith of human beings or by their charity, but what really fills him with wonder and emotion is people’s hope. “That those poor children,” he writes, “see how things are going and believe that it will be better tomorrow morning.” The poet’s image recalls the faces of the many people who have passed through this world -- peasants, poor labourers, migrants in search of a better future -- who have fought tenaciously, despite the bitterness of difficult days, full of so many trials, encouraged, however, by the confidence that their children would have a more just and more peaceful life. They struggled for their children; they struggled in hope.

The Pope visiting migrants in Rome, February 2015 Photo: The Tablet

Hope is the impetus in the heart of one who sets out, leaving home, land, sometimes family and relatives. I think of migrants who set out to seek a better life, more fitting for themselves and their dear ones. And it is also an impetus in the heart of one who receives: the desire to encounter one another, to get to know one another, to dialogue. Hope is the impetus to share the journey, because the journey has two sets of characters: those who come to our land, and we who go to their heart, to understand them, to understand their culture, their language.

The poor ... first bearers of hope

Hope is not a virtue for people with a full stomach. That is why the poor have always been the first bearers of hope. And in this connection, we can say that the poor, also the beggars, are the protagonists of history. God had need of them to enter in the world. God had need of Joseph, of Mary, of the shepherds of Bethlehem. On the night of the first Christmas, there was a world that was sleeping, comfortable in so many acquired certainties. However, the humble, in hiddenness, were preparing the revolution of kindness. They were poor in everything, some floated a bit above the threshold of survival, but they were rich in the most precious good that exists in the world, namely, the desire for change.

A prayer of hope

To be tempted against hope can also happen when one is following the way of the Christian life. The monks of antiquity denounced one of the worst enemies of fervour. They spoke of the midday devil that extinguishes a life of commitment, precisely while the sun burns on high. This temptation surprises us when we least expect it: the days become monotonous and boring, no value seems worthy of hard work anymore. This attitude is called acedia, which erodes life from inside, leaving it as an empty shell.

When this happens, we can always resort to Jesus’ name. We can repeat that simple prayer, a beautiful prayer, which has become the foundation of so many Christian spiritual traditions, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner! This is a prayer of hope, because I turn to him who can open wide the doors and resolve the problem, and make me look at the horizon, the horizon of hope.

Source: Abridged from Zenit, 27 September 2017

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