Work Enlivened by Hope

Spe salvi facti sumus, in hope we were saved. Benedict XVI begins his encyclical on Christian hope with this phrase from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (8:24). It is God and God alone who grounds our hope: “To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.”[1] God makes himself present in a Christian’s life, and although we see him now in an obscure manner (cf. 1 Cor 13;12), he is present in a very real way. “The things to come, the promise of Christ, are not only a reality that we await, but a real presence.”[2] Therefore, “the fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.”[3] As St. Josemaría put it “the light of holy hope gives us a foretaste of never-ending love in our true homeland in heaven.”[4]

Christian hope is a theological virtue. It rests entirely on the goodness of God, who through his only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, saves us in hope. We should humbly ask God, with words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Make me always have greater hope in you!”[5] Christ lived among men, died, rose, ascended into heaven, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. In Christ, we discover God’s fatherly strength: he is almighty, good, merciful, and faithful. We can make this strength our own through the action of the Holy Spirit and bring it to all men and women.

The object of our hope is God, who gives himself to us and whom we can possess forever. Living this hope means employing all the faculties God has given us, in particular our reason and our free will. Our reason opens itself to God, who has revealed himself as the highest Reason in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ; while our freedom unfolds in love for God, and through him and in him, for all mankind.

Human work, which St. Josemaría saw as the hinge supporting the sanctification of ordinary life in the middle of the world, possesses certain characteristics that accord very well with hope. And this is not only because work entails persevering effort, which in the believer receives encouragement from hope, but because all work, small or great, intellectual or manual, is presented as a plan, as an idea that moves a person towards its realization, until it is finally attained. Work always refers, like hope, to a bonum futurum arduum possibile,[6] to a good that is absent, difficult to attain, yet at the same time possible.

Before beginning any work, whether a large or small project (the construction of a building or the arrangement of a floral piece), a plan is drawn up, using one’s imagination and with the collaboration of other persons. This plan first takes shape in the human mind, and later it is confronted with reality to determine the means needed to overcome any obstacles.

Little by little, the initial plan begins to become reality. In this process many virtues come into play, but it is hope that guides everything, since it permits one to overcome all the difficulties, both the objective ones (for example, a lack of material means) and the subjective ones (discouragement, etc.). Without hope, this process would not take place; when there is no hope of attaining the end, a person ceases to put effort into his work.

Anyone who possesses Christian hope “works in this world of ours, which he loves passionately; he is involved in all its challenges, but all the while his eyes are fixed on heaven.”[7] Such a person works for the glory of God and in the service of mankind, so that Christ might “draw all men to himself” (Jn 12:32), and God might be “everything to every one” (1 Cor 15:28). By means of work carried out with hope, our reason and freedom open fully to God, and human work is divinized.

Our Lady guides us through the darkness and trials of our earthly path. If we go to her with trust and humility she will fill our hearts with hope. “When you hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history.”[8]

“Let us ask Holy Mary, Spes Nostra, our hope, to kindle in us a holy desire that we may all come together to dwell in the house of the Father. Nothing need disturb us if we make up our minds to anchor our hearts in a real longing for our true fatherland. Our Lord will lead us there with his grace, and he will send a good wind to carry our ship to the bright shores of our destination.”[9]

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, September 30, 2007, no. 3.

[2] Ibid., no. 8.

[3] Ibid., no. 7.

[4] St. Josemaría, Friends of God no. 278.

[5] Hymn Adoro Te.

[6] St. Thomas Aquinas, S. Th., I-II, q. 40, a. 5.

[7] St. Josemaría, Friends of God, no. 206.

[8] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, September 30, 2007, no. 50.

[9] Friends of God, no. 221.

Romana, n. 45, July-December 2007, p. 208-209.

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