FROM time to time, I receive letters from readers asking where is the hope?… please give us a word of hope! While it’s true that words can sometimes bring a certain hope, the Christian understanding of hope goes far, far deeper than the “assurance of a positive outcome.”
It is true that several of my writings here are sounding a trumpet of warning of things that are now here and coming. These writings have served to wake many souls up, to call them back to Jesus, to bring about, I have learned, many dramatic conversions. And yet, it is not enough to know what is coming; what is essential is that we know what is already here, or rather, Who is already here. In this lies the source of authentic hope.
HOPE IS A PERSON
On the surface, my writings this week On Becoming Holy and following The Little Path might seem to offer little in way of hope regarding the world’s free-fall into the depths of darkness and chaos. But, in fact, The Little Path is the fountainhead of true hope. How?
What is the opposite of hope? One might say despair. But at the heart of despair is something even deeper: fear. One despairs because he has lost all hope; fear of the future, then, drives from the heart the light of hope.
But St. John reveals the source of true hope:
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him… There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear… We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)
Fear is displaced by love, and God is love. The more one walks The Little Path, the more one enters into the life of God, and God’s life enters into him. Fear is driven out by the love of God as much as a candle drives darkness out of a room. What am I saying here? Christian hope, faith, joy, peace… these only come to those who authentically follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Yes! When we are walking in communion and harmony with God’s will, then we possess the light of God that dispels hopelessness.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
When we begin to live as children of God, we begin to inherit the family blessings. When we begin to live for God’s Kingdom, then we become recipients of the King’s treasury:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God…. (Matt 5:3-8)
This hope is born within us as we begin to walk in time with the rhythm of the beats of the Sacred Heart, the two beats of mercy and grace.
HOPE IN MERCY
While words can act as a spark, they are more like a sign pointing to hope than the possession of hope itself. The true possession of hope comes from knowing God, from letting Him love you. As St. John wrote, “We love because he first loved us.” Or one could say, “I have no more fear because He loves me.” Indeed, St. John wrote:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
When we cease to walk in The Little Path, which is the path of love, then we begin to walk in the darkness of sin. And from our earliest parents, we know what the human response to sin is: “hide”—hide in shame, hide in fear, hide in despair… Gen 3:8, 10 But when one comes to know the mercy of God and His incredible unconditional love, then even should one sin, the childlike trusting soul can turn immediately to the Father, depending completely upon the Cross that has reconciled us to Him.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole… By his wounds you have been healed. (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24)
Thus, such a soul can be “perfect in love” in the sense that, even though he or she has faults and imperfections, that soul has learned to throw itself completely upon the mercy of God. Just as the sun banishes darkness from the face of the earth, leaving only shadows where there are objects in the way, so too, the mercy of God expels the darkness of fear in the trusting sinner’s heart, even if there are still shadows cast from our weakness.
Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1863
You see, God is not thwarted by our misery, but rather, by those who cling to it:
Do not be absorbed in your misery—you are still too weak to speak of it—but, rather, gaze on My Heart filled with goodness, and be imbued with My sentiments… You should not become discouraged, but strive to make My love reign in place of your self-love. Have confidence, My child. Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you. As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486, 1488
Here, Jesus is telling us not to hide, but to come out of the shadows and bask in His mercy. Such a soul, even though he or she is prone to sin and failure, will not be afraid—will, in fact, be a soul filled with incredible hope.
Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1485
HOPE IN GRACE
A human heart draws in blood with one beat, and expels it in the next. While the Heart of Jesus at once draws in our sinfulness (is “pierced”), in the next beat, it overflows with the water and blood of mercy and grace. This is the “inheritance” He gives to those who trust in Him for “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” Eph 1:3
The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is-trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1578
These graces are truly experienced in the one who walks by faith. This is why it is nearly impossible for a hardened atheist to find the “proof” of God that he seeks: because the Kingdom of God is only given to those who are “poor in spirit”, childlike. Pope Benedict explained this in his encyclical Spe Salvi, drawing upon St. Paul’s wording in Hebrews 11:1:
Faith is the substance (hypostasis) of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen.
This word “hypostatis”, Benedict said, was to be rendered from the Greek into Latin with the term substantia or “substance.” That is, this faith within us is to be interpreted as an objective reality—as a “substance” within us:
…there are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty: this “thing” which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not “appear”), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Spe Salvi (Saved In Hope), n. 7
This is precisely how you and I become signs of hope in the world. Not because we can quote scriptures of God’s promises or produce a convincing argument of the afterlife. Rather, because we have Him dwelling within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We already possess the down-payment of the eternal beatitude.
He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee… which is the first installment of our inheritance… Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:14; Rom 5:5)
Yes, beloved friends, there are things coming upon the world, and very soon, that are going to change all of our lives. cf. So, What Time is it? The ones who are afraid (or who will be afraid) are those not yet “perfect in love.” That is because they are still trying to hold on to this world, rather than the next; they have not fully abandoned themselves to God, but want to keep control; they seek first their own kingdoms rather than the Kingdom of God.
But this can all change very quickly. And it comes about through walking The Little Path, moment by moment. Part of walking that path, again, is becoming a person of prayer.
Prayer is the life of the new heart…. Prayer attends to the grace we need… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2697, 2010
Prayer draws the sap of the Holy Spirit through the Vine, who is Christ, into our hearts. How many times have I begun my day with a cloud of darkness and weariness over my soul… and then the powerful wind of the Spirit enters my heart through prayer, blowing the clouds away and filling me with the bright rays of God’s love! I want to cry out to the world: do it! Pray, pray, pray! You will encounter Jesus for yourself; you will fall in love with Him because He loves you first; He will dispel your fears; He will cast out your darkness; He will fill you with hope.
To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well… In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Spe Salvi (Saved In Hope), n. 33, 34
And that is what you and I are to become as these days grow darker: bright, shining Apostles of Hope.
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