This is today’s post from Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction, and I just thought it was so apt for this blog. (If you haven’t discovered Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction yet, take some time to go over there and browse!)
The Ultimate Christmas Gift: The Gift of Hope!
SEPTEMBER 21, 2013 BY MARY KAUFMANN
Hope is the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and incurring punishment (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2090)
Is the virtue of hope like a Christmas gift or divine blessing available to us every day? It can be. But, do you believe this statement from the Catechism even when you are not faithful to God or you blow it in loving others? Maybe you got snagged by something seemingly urgent and skipped your prayer time or snapped at your kids. You know yourself. Aren’t these the times when we feel less desirable to God, like we might have lost our spiritual luster and his favor? What do you do when you recognize your faults? Do you avoid God, like you do when someone has offended you or do you run to him? The theological virtue of hope, rather than just a set of habits, is a vital energy for the Christian walk. It gives us power to know God personally and to trust him more. When we open ourselves to receive and operate with hope, we let God be God in our lives and find that, rather than being repelled by our weaknesses, God is attracted to us, even when we, ourselves, feel least deserving of his gaze. Rather than ascribing human characteristics to God, the virtue of hope allows us to have an unflappable confidence in God… and not in ourselves.
Servant of God, Archbishop Luis Martinez, Venerable Concepción Cabrera’s last spiritual director, echoes this with: “Your lowliness, not your virtue, attracts God.” While he is not suggesting that we sin in order to attract God, he does suggest a reaction to our own sin that is counter intuitive to us on the human level. When we receive and act with hope, we can experience both contrition for our sins and confidence in God’s love for us at the same time. Martinez elaborates, “We must learn to cast ourselves into the arms of our Savior with our heart torn to pieces…because we feel pain at having offended Him, but we confide in Him because He loves us.” Hope allows us to please our sensitive Savior, because hope gives us the capacity to be available to God when and where he most wants to gift us. Hope helps us receive vital remedies for our hearts from the very heart of God. It anchors us to the very places where the living presence of God wants to meet us. Let us be like ordinary shepherds tending their sheep, but following a luminous star of light, to meet Jesus. What miracles await us when we respond in hope?
In her spiritual classic, Of the Virtues and of the Vices, Venerable Concepción Cabrera (“Conchita”) describes this supernatural gift or virtue of hope as Jesus in action, as “a Star that exists from all eternity that can illuminate the world with the purest experience of the Gospel.” What is this pure experience of the Gospel but a repeat living encounter with Love that reorders us and loves us where we need it the most. The hopeful Christian can approach Jesus openly at every Mass and experience, as Conchita shared that, “The soul that possess this hope, rejoices in it, not for its own good but for the glory to God that it allows.” Hope helps the Christian struggling with the ordinary details of life to center and re-center their lives in God’s love so they can reflect God’s redeeming light to others. Hopeful people are more than just optimistic people. They are people focused with Gospel priorities that nothing ultimately sidetracks, including their own screw-ups. According to Conchita, “When they have hope, they seek after, not the goods of the earth, neither good name, riches nor honor. They set their looks higher and hope for the possession of God himself. This Hope exists on the altars and in each moment [is] waiting for us” reaching out to touch our human wounds. Let us be bold then in naming our sins and setting our sights upon the one crucified out of love for us
Conchita had her hopes set higher. During her daily prayer for several weeks, she heard the gentle words of Christ like a clear whisper in her heart, words meant for all of us to instill hope and faith in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. She collated these dialogues with Jesus into I Am: Eucharistic Meditations on the Gospel, which have been reviewed and approved by the Church. While meditating on John 10:25, the Lord told her and us, “But you, if you follow Me, come to look for Me in the Eucharist, tell Me that you belong to Me, that you want to listen to my teachings, that you believe in the mysteries of My Divinity, even though you do not understand them, that all My works witness to you of the love of your magnanimous God who takes pleasure in man’s conversion. Blessed faith and hope makes saints! Open your heart before me because I want to possess it and teach you to look at everything in the light of faith, hope and love.” Let us follow that star of light, Jesus, and become hope-filled saints who arecontrite and confident in God’s love for us!