"When we speak about hope we can be led to interpret it according to the common meaning of the term ... but Christian hope is not like this."
In early 2017, Pope Francis was dedicating his general audience catecheses to the theme of hope. Now under the shadow of the pandemic is a perfect time to review our understanding of the theological virtue of hope, and make sure we’re living in it, and helping others to live it. As the pope says, “We Christians are men and women of hope.”
The Holy Father drew from St. Paul’s first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, which at the time of the writing, had “just been established, and only a few years separate[d] it from Christ’s Easter event.”
These early believers were not struggling so much with believing in Christ’s Resurrection, but believing in the resurrection of the dead, he explained.
In this sense, this Letter is more relevant than ever. Each time we face our death, or that of a person who is dear, we feel that our faith is put to the test. All our doubts emerge, all our frailty, and we ask ourselves: “But will there truly be life after death …? Will I still be able to see and embrace again the people I have loved …?” … We all have a little fear due to this uncertainty about death.
So St. Paul, in facing these fears, urges this young Church to wear faith on the head like a helmet, especially in the most difficult times of life. “It is a helmet. This is what Christian hope is.”
The pope clarified:
When we speak about hope we can be led to interpret it according to the common meaning of the term, that is, in reference to something beautiful that we desire, but which may or may not be attained. … People say, for example: “I hope there will be good weather tomorrow!”; but we know that there might be bad weather the following day … Christian hope is not like this. Christian hope is the expectation of something that has already been fulfilled; the door is there, and I hope to reach the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door! I am certain that I will reach the door. This is how Christian hope is: having the certainty that I am walking toward something that is, not something that I hope may be. This is Christian hope. Christian hope is the expectation of something that has already been fulfilled and which will certainly be fulfilled for each one of us.
As well, our own resurrection, and that of our loved ones “is not something that may or may not happen, but is a certain reality, because it is rooted in the event of Christ’s Resurrection.”
The Holy Father said that living in hope means learning how to live in expectation, and he compared it to a woman who is pregnant. She lives in the expectation of seeing the gaze of her child. “This is not easy, but we can learn: to live in expectation,” he said.
The pope went on speak of St. Paul’s words: “Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him” (1 Thess 5:10). “These words always generate great comfort and peace,” he said.
Therefore, we are also called to pray for the beloved people who have left us, that they may live in Christ and be in full communion with us. Something that touches my heart deeply is an expression of St. Paul, also addressed to the Thessalonians. It fills me with certain hope. Thus, he says: “and so we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17). It is wonderful: everything passes but, after death, we shall always be with the Lord. It is the total certainty of hope … Do you believe this? I am asking you: Do you believe this? … And there, with the Lord, we will meet. Thus, let us ask the Lord to teach our heart to hope in the resurrection, this way we can learn to live in the certain expectation of the encounter with him and with all our loved ones.
Read the whole audience here.