“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #s 1813, 1817-21)
In thinking about this word, it is helpful to step back and reflect upon what most of us “hope” for. The Brooklyn born twentieth-century psychologist, Abraham Maslow, made such an effort through his Hierarchy of Needs. Included among these are: Physiological (food, water, warmth, rest); Safety (security, employment); Love (friendship, family); Esteem (prestige, accomplishment); and Self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential). While his list contains many items for which we humans hope and strive, there is one glaring omission.
The Psalmist (39:7), through his question and response, provides us what is missing: “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
By placing our hope and trust in God, a Divine rhythm unfolds. Each day, through an ever-deepening relationship with Our Lord, we speak freely regarding our most intimate concerns. While already aware of our needs (see Matthew 6:8), it must nevertheless please Him when we sit quietly and listen to His soft voice. Over the years, so many have told me that they make no decision in their lives without first asking God two simple questions: (1) Lord, is this your Will for me? (2) By moving in this new direction, will it, in ways large or small, help bring about your kingdom?
In the Gospel of Mark (10:17-22), this idea of meeting the Lord and asking Him “the question” regarding our lives is illustrated in the Parable of the Rich Man. If you remember, this rich man asked Jesus what was required to inherit eternal life. In reply, Jesus told him that he should follow the commandments (which the rich man had been doing). But then, Jesus gave him one more instruction: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” However, the rich man could not separate himself from his earthly possessions and give his life to Jesus. And so, “…he went away sorrowful.” Clearly, the Rich Man was sorrowful because his hope (earthly riches) remained out-of-synch with God’s divine will for his life.
Today, is the Lord asking us to part with everything we own? For some of us, perhaps. But for most of us, what the Lord asks is that we allow Him entry into our life decisions; that we invite Him along on our journey! Regarding our earthly treasure, perhaps the question is: Might some of our earthly wealth be shared with others? Still yet, in our day and age, when so many of us are overly consumed with digital gadgets, perhaps He is asking us to reduce our online time in favor of visiting those in our families and community who are lonely and receive very few visits? In this regard, the gift of our time—to others—is what the Lord asks.
I like to remind myself and those I meet that while our earthly journey requires that we tend to the here-and-now, it is more important to hope for things that last. For it is there that true happiness resides.