Hope. It’s a four letter word. One that as Catholic Christians we bandy about without much thought for how hope is actually meant to change how we live our lives. If we believe ALL that our faith teaches us, then we should never be without hope in our lives. And yet we are a stressed out, anxious, and despairing people.
How do I know this? My email and DM’s are filled with prayer request after prayer request asking for an increase of hope, to assist in rejecting fear and for a stronger faith. I myself have gone through times of deep darkness and pain where I feel hopeless and helpless. Thankfully the Holy Spirit was with me then and through the words of Scripture, along with the encouragement and prayers of others my faith was strengthened and I was able to climb out of that pit more than once.
So friends, how do we increase in the virtue of hope? How do we stand firm in the knowledge that God’s plans are greater and more awesome than we could ever imagine even on our best days, thereby trusting in the hope of heaven that He made possible through the Cross and the Resurrection of His Son Jesus?
Recently I read a book by Sara Estabrooks called “Becoming Holy, One Virtue at a Time”. It’s part of the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women published by Our Sunday Visitor. I was struck by Chapter Two called “Unseen But Certain Hope” where Estabrooks dives into the Theological Virtue of Hope. It is written in a way that this non-theologian can grasp, allowing me to dig into building my virtue muscles.
Estabrooks starts with explaining what the virtue of hope is not. It’s not hoping that things will go well, or that you can find a great parking space at the mall. It’s not about “hoping” to make it on time to church for Mass. That’s temporal hope, hope of the body shall we say.
The Virtue of Hope is one of the three Theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. These are the building blocks of our faith as Christians. If we do not have these things then what do we have? Not a whole lot, friends. So, let’s chat about what the virtue of hope actually is.
The virtue of hope is Christ-centered– relying not on ourselves but on the grace of God, leaning on the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. It is steadfast and true, it does not disappoint because it’s doesn’t have anything to do with us or our outside circumstances to accomplish what God needs to accomplish within us and around us. Estabrooks writes “The virtue of hope looks beyond this world and and this life. Christian hope holds God as its object. It’s the “virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness (Catholic catechism 1817)”
Hope looks beyond us into the eternal where God waits for us. All we have to do is receive it because it’s ALREADY been given friends through Jesus and His life, death and resurrection. We can do nothing to earn it, it is gift given fully and freely. He has won heaven for us and all He asks is for us to love one another as He does and to love Him above all else. It sounds so easy right?
Yet, there are so many things that stand as obstacles to hope. For me it has been the pain of grief and loneliness, a desolation of the heart due to the suffering I witnessed with my daughter. It led me to not trust God with my heart and He and I entered into a battle extraordinaire that finally ended in the freezing cold waters of Lourdes, France where the last vestiges of control slipped from my hands and I surrendered. That peace and hope that filled my heart was almost taken away after our Courtney died in the abject grief and hurt of my broken heart but again, surrender rescued me.
Recently, surrender has come again, this time in regards to me holding unto the pain of past shame I had not fully let go of as well as fear of the future. God gently speaks truth to me everyday as I spend time in His word soaking in His grace and receiving the gifts of faith, hope and love to the point where it overflows out of my life with how I serve and treat others. There is no perfection here, just perseverance to the end friends, as the saints taught us.
Yep. That’s right. You see my friends, we are all called to be saints. You read that correctly. SAINTS! I know, I know, it feels impossible and yet if we strive for holiness, if we walk closely with Jesus allowing Him to reform and remake us more in His image and likeness, hope remains and sainthood happens. This is not an easy task y’all. Not by a long shot. Estabrooks goes on to say “What I came to realize is that holiness is a fight. It’s a journey. A skill. It takes prayer, dedication, motivation, practice and above all, the grace of God”
Can I get an “Amen” from those standing in the back!! It is a fight y’all. A fight to the finish and we have to be willing to hone those battle skills to rebuke the enemy and remember that we belong to God and God alone.
So it’s time to get your HOPE on. It’s time to fight the negativity and the self-talk that says you are less then. It’s time to rise up by getting on our knees and asking Our Creator to show us how to have faith, so we can hope and then, with those two skills firmly planted in our back pocket, go love the people God places in our life.
H.O.P.E. – Hold On, Pain Ends at the foot of the Cross friends. So lay it down and walk in the HOPE of the Resurrection.
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