On hope that doesn’t disappoint

Pope Francis gives us wonderful thoughts about hope today in his General Audience.  If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, at least read the last paragraph.

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

As children we are taught that it is not a good thing to boast. In my land, we call those who boast “peacocks.” And that is right, because to boast of what one is or of what one has, in addition to being a certain pride, also betrays a lack of respect in relations with others, especially towards those who are more unfortunate than us. In this passage of the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul surprises us, in as much as for a good two times he exhorts us to boast. Hence, of what is it right to boast? — because if he exhorts us to boast, it is right to boast of something. And how is it possible to do this without offending, others, without excluding anyone?

In the first case, we are invited to boast of the abundance of grace of which we are pervaded in Jesus Christ, through faith. Paul wants to make us understand that, if we learn to read everything in the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace! Everything is gift! In fact, if we pay attention, to act – in history as well as in our life – it is not only us but first of all God <who acts>. He is the absolute protagonist, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the plot of his plan of salvation and who brings it to fulfilment for us in His Son Jesus. We are asked to acknowledge all this, to receive it with gratitude and to make it become a motive of praise, of blessing and of great joy. If we do this, we are in peace with God and we experience freedom. And this peace is then extended to all environments and to all relations of our life: we are in peace with ourselves, we are in peace with the family, with our community, at work and with the persons we meet every day on our path.

However, Paul exhorts us to boast also in tribulations. This is not easy to understand. This is more difficult for us and it might seem to have nothing to do with the condition of peace just described. Instead, it constitutes the most authentic, the truest presupposition. In fact, the peace that the Lord offers and guarantees to us is not understood as the absence of worries, disappointments, failings, of motives of suffering. If it were so, should we succeed in being in peace that moment would soon end and we would fall inevitably into dejection. Instead, the peace that flows from faith is a gift: it is the grace of experiencing that God loves us and is always beside us; He does not leave us alone not even for an instant of our life. And, as the Apostle states, this generates patience, because we know that, also in the harshest and most distressing moments, the mercy and goodness of the Lord are greater than anything and nothing will tear us from His hands and from communion with Him.

See then why Christian hope is solid, see that it does not disappoint. It never disappoints. Hope does not disappoint! It is not founded on what we can do or be, and even less so on what we can believe. Its foundation, that is, the foundation of Christian hope is what is most faithful and certain that can be, namely the love that God Himself has for each one of us. It is easy to say: God loves us. We all say it. But think a moment: is every one of us capable of saying: I am certain that God loves me? It is not so easy to say it, but it is true. It is a good exercise to say to oneself: God loves me. This is the root of our security, the root of hope. And the Lord has effused His Spirit abundantly in our hearts as maker and guarantor, precisely so that it can nourish faith within us and keep this hope alive. And this certainty: God loves me. “But in this awful moment?” – God loves me. “And <He loves> me who have done this bad and evil thing?” – God loves me. No one takes this certainty away. And we should repeat it as a prayer: God loves me. I am certain that God loves me. I am certain that God loves me. Now we understand why the Apostle Paul exhorts us to boast always of all this. I boast of the love of God because He loves me. The hope we have been given does not separate us from others, and even less so does it lead us to discredit and marginalize them. Instead, it is an extraordinary gift of which we are called to make ourselves “channels” for all, with humility and simplicity. And then our greatest boast will be that of having as Father a God who does not have preferences, who does not exclude anyone, but who opens His house to all human beings, beginning with the least and the estranged, so that as His children we learn to console and support one another. And do not forget: hope does not disappoint.

[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

Enduring God’s glance

“Holiness consists in enduring God’s glance.  It may appear mere passivity to withstand the look of an eye; but everyone knows how much exertion is required when this occurs in an essential encounter.  Our glances mostly brush by each other indirectly, or they turn quickly away, or they give themselves not personally but only socially.  So too do we constantly flee from God into a distance that is theoretical, rhetorical, sentimental, aesthetic, or, most frequently, pious.  Or we flee from him to external works.  And yet, the best thing would be to surrender one’s naked heart to the fire of this all-penetrating glance. The heart would then itself have to catch fire, if it were not always artificially dispersing the rays that come to it as through a magnifying glass.  Such enduring would be the opposite of a stoic’s hardening his face: it would be yielding, declaring oneself beaten, capitulating, entrusting oneself, casting oneself into him.  It would be childlike loving, since for children the glance of the father is not painful: with wide-open eyes they look into his.  Little Thérèse—great little Thérèse—could do it.  Augustine’s formula on the essence of eternity: videntem videre—‘to look at him who is looking at you.’”  (von Balthasar)

If this quote touched you, I would encourage you to take just six minutes to listen to this homily by Fr. Pierre Ingram on how God looks at you.  You’ll be blessed.