I heard a powerful talk on divine mercy today, and its relationship to the theological virtue of hope.
Hope is, among other things, confident assurance that the future holds good for me. And since happiness can be described as the present possession of the goods that truly fulfill us, hope greatly contributes to our happiness even now as we in some sense already possess the God-assured future of eternal life through hope. Those who lose a sense that the future holds any good for them sink into despair, and in a world whose only constant is change, it is imperative that our anchor of hope be sunk deep into God.
The theological virtue of hope, given to us by God in baptism as an unmerited gift, anchors us in an unshakable trust that the future, beyond the grave, holds for us imperishable good. It also grounds us in the assurance that God will provide all the means necessary ‘this side of the grave’ to seek and find that everlasting good. The treasure of hope we possess is a pure and gratuitous gift of God’s immesurable and unfathomable mercy, which means that even our gravest betrayals and failures cannot perish the light of hope within us if we heartily entrust ourselves after each fall to the fearsome gentleness of His gracious pardon. But hope also manifests its unique power when we are sunk in darkness, in those times when we feel abandoned or alone. It is in those times that we can make an ‘act of hope,’ that we can choose to place trust over fear and see dawning in our darkest shadows an unearthly light radiating from the unsealed Tomb of Christ. Hope in Hell The homilist quoted the Eastern saint Silouan of Mt Athos, ‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.’ ‘The Church, as the Body of Christ, not only lives out each-day Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, but she lives through his descent into hell. Among the saints, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta called the Church to descend into the hell of the slums, garbage heaps and spaces of despair, bearing Christ who harrows those hells.’ ‘But first,’ he said, ‘we must invite Christ into our own inner hell; those places of fear and darkness, pain and death, sin and hopelessness and ask him — no, permit him! — to shatter the chains and break the iron bars within. Otherwise you will bring only your own hell into others’ lives.’ Just Mercy That sparked a memory in me… I was once blessed to hear a talk in 1999 by a man who directed a Christian half-way house. He said he once knew a man who, ten years before, was sent to prison for two years — for the fourth time. After this man had served his time, a police officer drove him downtown and dropped him off at a BP station with $100. The officer said, ‘Seeya in six months, pal,’ anticipating his next imprisonment. As the ex-con walked into the gas station to get a drink, a man who had a t-shirt on that said Mercy House walked up to him and said, ‘Hey brother, I saw what happened. Do you want a another chance?’ The speaker paused, choked up, and said, ‘The man said, “Yes.” That man was me. I’m that ex-con.’ Then he finished his talk, saying, ‘The cop spoke for justice, and he was right. But the other man spoke for mercy, and that’s why I’m here today. Actually, because of mercy all of us are here today. Thank you.’ Evangelize in hope.