Hope for True Happiness
In this past Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus offered healing and deliverance to those who sought him with these needs. Job’s cry of hopelessness in the first reading (Jb 7:1-4, 6-7) stands in stark contrast to the hope of those who put their trust in Jesus (Mk 1:29-39). We too are invited to put our hope in Jesus.
Augustine in his catechetical work The Enchiridion begins to define hope as being related to “good and future things.” He adds that “The one who hopes for these things is said to have hope for them.” (Enchiridion II.8) He goes on to point out that the hope given to us by the Holy Spirit reaches into eternity and allows us to see life on earth from the perspective of eternal life. Life on this earth is a precious gift, but it is not the highest good. Life here on earth will end at some point, whereas life in heaven will never end. Thus, the supreme good is eternal life. Even Jesus had this perspective, and it is evident when he said: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
The main object of theological hope is eternal life, and Augustine writes in another catechetical work that in this life, “We possess the first fruits of the Spirit -we, who have already offered our spirits to God as firstfruits, and have received the benefit of adoption of the children of God to which we are called- we will manifest [in the next life] that we will be totally free, we will live without any tribulations, and we will be in every sense children of God. We have been saved in this hope” (83 Quaestiones 67.6).
When we glimpse the glory of an eternity with Christ, our sufferings can lean unto eternal life, so that tribulations in this life become “light and brief” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We are promised that, in heaven, not just sufferings such as misfortunes of life will be over, but death and sin will cease (Revelation 21:4, Romans 8:23-25).
Seeing our present sufferings through the eyes of hope in eternal life can produce other virtues such as patience. Augustine writes, “Patience cannot be separated from hope. In fact, patience feeds off hope, and hope promotes patience. We could say that patience and hope embrace each other” (Enchiridion II.8).
The life of Jesus in the midst of his passion teaches us that when we are enduring afflictions and suffering great pains, we are in a battle, and patience and prayer are what we have so not to succumb to suffering (Letter 140.13.34).
Hope, which is kept alive by the love of God, allows us to hold on to the good news of Christ’s resurrection and his promise of eternal life as we sojourn in this present life. Augustine writes that: “The gift of God, which is the Holy Spirit and God’s love poured out in our hearts, allows the one who hopes to arrive at what he or she hopes for (Rm 5:5)” (Ench. XXXI, 117). He adds: “The one who loves rightly, without a doubt also believes and hopes rightly. Yet the one who does not love, believes in vain, even if what he (or she) believes is true. If he (or she) does not love, he (or she) also hopes in vain” (Enchiridion XXXI. 117).
Fr. Carlos Medina, OSA