This past week I have heard references to the virtue of hope more often than anytime in recent memory. And yet most of us find it difficult to understand this member of the triumvirate of keystone virtues: faith, hope and love. We can handle faith, and we really understand love, but hope? That’s a sticky wicket, if there ever was one. Many of us conflate it with ‘wish’ such as I wish you the best, or I wish I could win the lottery, or I wish this ache would go away. Wish, wish, wish. But hope?
Hope has deeper roots than wish; that’s why it is a virtue in most religious teachings. Hope reaches into one’s soul and finds God. Hope encounters what might be impossible and sees that the impossibility is in God’s hands. And then the human soul works with that ‘impossibility’, holding God’s hands, trusting God’s care and direction. The ‘impossibility’ turns into something possible at this point: a miracle, an adjustment, or a peaceful heart, and so on.
One of the interviews I heard this week was with Katharine Hayhoe, professor at Texas Tech. She is a climate scientist and one of The New York Times 100 Most Influential People in America. Katharine is deeply religious but also deeply scientific. She says that hope abounds even in what we think is hopeless: the acceptance of world wide climate change. She cites a surprising number of informed groups actively, yet quietly, helping resistance communities to understand that we have a real catastrophe on the horizon if we do not act. And there is success here. “Small conversations can have astonishing results and give us tools to open dialogue,” she asserts. Her book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope, has attracted extremely positive reviews from government leaders to scientists to the average reader. It is now on my must read list!
Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist who now challenges the greed of those industries decimating the great forests of the world and the animals therein, has also written a recent, powerful book on the environment and climate change; it even has ‘hope’ in the title. The Book of Hope presents a discussion on four reasons why Goodall encourages hope in her readers. First, we should hope in the Amazing Human Intellect, then, the Resilience of Nature, along with the Power of Young People, and the Indomitable Human Spirit. Think of the young people engaged on a hunger strike in front of the White House begging President Biden and Congress to move quickly on climate legislation, or think of Greta Thunberg the teenager who drew world wide attention to this cause or the young people protesting outside the Glasgow Center in Scotland where global talks are taking place concerning climate change. Yes, the young give us hope.
I encourage you, my faithful readers, to read the books Hayhoe and Goodall have written and to reflect on the need to practice the virtue of hope when it comes to difficulties or near-impossibilities in your life.
Hope occurs when we do something to effect positive change. Hope means we are working with God on an issue, a concern. When you stand at the bedside of a beloved sick one, you are correct to ask for a miracle—but if it is not a miracle, your reliance on hope says you will seek peace in however what is hoped for turns out. In other words, you will work with God. Within every impossibility, there lives the possible. And you will handle that ‘possibility’ even if it is not the one you wanted.
Pope Francis has written, “Hope opens new horizons making capable of dreaming what is not imaginable.” He says further that hope makes us “think of the exalted good God wants for us.”
In Jeremiah 29:11, you can read these lovely words of Yahweh: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” And in Psalm 146: 5 we read, “Happy he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God.”
I pray that each of you will find hope in whatever you experience that challenges you, but remember: you work with God to have hope, to be hopeful. Please share with us examples you have experienced of hope. We need to learn from each other. Blessings and peace to you.