For many people, hope can be easily misunderstood as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” The sick person hopes to be well again, the student hopes to do well in the examinations, an employee hopes for a promotion, couples with marital problems hope for reconciliation, etc. We all have something to hope for. If we have lost the sense of hope then we can easily lose the will to live.
The Biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that hope is one of three theological virtues along with faith and charity. “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” (CCC 1817). Hope is the confidence that God abides with us on the journey of life into eternity. In the words of St. Paul, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8: 24 – 25).
The beginning of a new year always brings with it fresh hopes. We all look forward to something brighter that will keep us motivated and sustain us with enthusiasm. We have hopes for our families, our children, our friends and loved ones, our community, society and world. “And even as our human hopes are fulfilled there is the realization of the need for a greater hope, for the infinite, something that will always be more than we can attain by our own human efforts. The virtue of Christian hope directs our minds and hearts to God.”
Seen from a Christian perspective, “to hope is to place our trust in the Father and in the promises of Christ His Son. The virtue of hope responds to the deepest human desire for happiness that is placed in our hearts by God. Hope takes up the human desire for happiness and purifies and orders that desire toward God. Without God we remain without hope.” (Spe salvi, 23). As Pope Benedict XVI notes, man needs God, otherwise he loses the fundamental basis of all hope.
Even when things around us look bleak, our faith in God must lead us to put our hope in Him. For the disciples of Jesus, it was the hope of the return of the Messiah that motivated them to go out and preach the gospel so zealously. They knew that Jesus was with them. We too need to believe that Jesus is with us leading us towards the happiness that we all seek and long for.