Hope is gift from God, but it’s our choice to put it into practice

Published: June 23, 2016

By Chris Thomas
St. Edward Church, Texarkana

“Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father … has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope …” (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

My dad was in the hospital suffering from a broken hip. My siblings gathered to hold vigil during his surgery. We were all quiet, each keeping company with our own thoughts and concerns that his health could rapidly deteriorate. Life seemed very dark at that moment.

Hope is pure gift, however, as with all of God’s gifts, it is often subtle and gentle in its giving. He respects our will and our freedom to accept it or deny it.

The hospital chaplain came to visit. A family friend, Father Felix Okey Alaribe always brought a smile and a strength born of faith with him. As he learned about Dad’s recovery, he even managed to break through our silence so that we could join him in laughter. Six years later and I can still pinpoint that moment when the darkness of despair was broken by the light of hope.

By definition, the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are pure gifts from God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these virtues have the “Triune God as their origin, motive and object.” (1812)

In the midst of suffering and fear, hope is the gift that keeps us looking toward God with expectancy and anticipation. In the book of Hebrews, hope is described as an “anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (6:19)

Hope is pure gift, however, as with all of God’s gifts, it is often subtle and gentle in its giving. He respects our will and our freedom to accept it or deny it.

As Father James Keenan writes in “Virtues for Ordinary Christians,” “Hope enters us gently, assuring us of the presence of the Spirit in the midst of the turmoil. That gentle presence is strong, then, not in volume but in depth.”

We are given the ability to consciously and actively choose to hope. Paradoxically, the choice is part of the gift from God.

Once the gift is chosen, its practice can affect our outlook and strengthen our endurance. To practice something is to perform or exercise it repeatedly and regularly.  When we daily practice the gift of hope, we choose to expect and appreciate the presence of God in our lives. Again in the book of Hebrews, we are encouraged to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (10:23)

This virtue of hope is not a naive one. We know that not everything meets our daily expectations. Rather, this gift teaches us to trust God and his plan, whether it be earthly or heavenly.

St. Padre Pio wrote, “I do not know what will happen to me; I only know one thing for certain, that the Lord will never fall short of his promises.” Perhaps his most famous teaching is one of his simplest: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”

Father Okey brought hope with him into Dad’s hospital room. His sure expectation of the gifts of God encouraged us to look for the Spirit’s presence.

We too are called to share our hope, our anchor in God’s loving providence. It is in this hope that we are enabled to continue in the assurance that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).