By. Fr. Roy Cimagala
“SPE SALVI,” is the title of the second encyclical of Pope Benedict issued last November 30. It’s lifted from St. Paul’s “In hope we were saved.” (Rom 8:24)
After his first encyclical on charity, “Deus caritas est,” comes this magisterial treatise on hope. If the pattern continues, his third should be on faith.
The Pope seems intent in popularizing these three crucial virtues, lowering them from the ivory tower. Also called theological virtues, as distinct from human virtues, they have God, rather than us, as primary object.
We need them to live the supernatural life, our life with God. In Christian belief, that’s what our life ought to be.
These theological virtues, God’s gifts first before being products of our efforts, attest to God’s grace in us. As such they serve as the source and goal of our human virtues like prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, etc.
In fact, the human virtues are confirmed authentic only when they are inspired by these theological virtues. Otherwise, they just appear as virtues, not the real McCoy.
Our crying need today is to realize how our life is made supernatural by the practice of these theological virtues. With these virtues, we can expect better consistency in our Christian life, whether in the personal or social aspect, material or spiritual.
In this new encyclical, the Pope wants us to develop theological hope with God’s grace and our all-out effort. This is hoping in God, and not in some idols like money, power, popularity, etc., that we tend to create.
This is the hope that does not frustrate nor defraud us. Based and animated by our firm faith in the living God, this hope is no rip-off, no bluff. It’s no phantom of our intelligence.
It brings God to us, the future to the present, eternal value to our temporal affairs. It gives us serenity amid trials. It makes us persevere in our struggles, enabling us to renew ourselves as often as needed.
Faith and charity form the proper orbit for hope to develop. Straying from this orbit, hope weakens and can die. Or it can devise escape mechanisms by concocting false hopes.
This is what we see aplenty these days. On one side, many people are losing hope, sinking into discouragement, depression and despair. The growing number of mental cases and aberrant behavior worldwide attest to this observation.
On the other, we have many people creating complex webs of theories and ideologies to prop them. If not inspired by God, these things can only spawn injustice, coercion, deceit, hidden worries, etc.
Sooner or later, their errors or fallacies show, dooming their systems. Their doctrines cannot explain away our ultimate problems-our natural limitations and, worse, sin and evil in all its forms, and death.
In this encyclical, Pope Benedict explains the nature, characteristics and dynamics of Christian hope. He also tells us how to develop it insofar as it depends on us.
In it, the Holy Spirit in a way speaks to us in vintage Ratzinger style-a richly textured analysis using many brilliant threads of Scripture, tradition and magisterium, theology and philosophy, history and culture, even anecdotes. It’s simply breathtaking!
It reminds us strongly of basic truths. God began something good in us, and is bent, no matter how much we spoil his plans, in consummating it. We have reason to be optimistic, patient, cheerful. It dissolves anxieties.
We are beings created and outfitted to hope, because we always long for something which always transcends what we can find here. Thus, hope springs eternal. It leads us to eternal life with God, ultimately hope’s only proper object.
This hope is not merely “informative” but “performative,” terms the Pope used to distinguish between intellectual hope and a life-changing one. Hope involves action, not passivity.
It’s not individualistic, not only personal hope, but also social. It’s a hope that truly saves us. I invite my readers to read this document.
Now that everyone wants to be “cool,” please know that the real secret to being “cool” is when we live this unfailing virtue of hope. This is no mere makeover, dude!