On Christian Hope


“The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot—to use the classical expression—”merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited”, but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behaviour is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as “God’s fellow workers”, contributed to the world’s salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Th 3:2). We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God’s promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad” (Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi; emphasis mine).


One thought on “On Christian Hope

  1. Jason,

    There was much to like in that encyclical.

    Still, here is how I see it: the unbeliever cannot be “open” to anything spiritually good (the believer certainly can). God certainly, usually through His people, places the unbeliever in certain circumstances and among certain persons where they are more likely to hear the explicit Gospel message that they need to hear (creating a believer who will do good), and come to believe – but the unbeliever often has the “freedom” to reject all of these workings leading up to and including this moment of Gospel proclamation… to ignore them… to be “closed” to God’s good purposes to save not only the whole world though His Son, but even them.

    I think, for all the talk of the importance of “free will” in the Church, most of us are, more than we like to admit, creatures of imitation who are “carried away” by the desires of those we find ourselves among (whether we are really happy or not with the company we keep) – see the Girard stuff I forwarded you on Friday. I think that so much of what we do – or rather, what is done to us – happens at a less-than-fully conscious, i.e. tacit level.

    When we do talk about really conscious choices, I think the key is who “plays God” – believers attempt to build culture in accordance with the mind of Christ (this may be doen in various ways), working with God (His will). The more mature among them do this very consciously (here, eschewing mechanical or determinist/fatalist views of reality, they are quite aware of the various actors in this thing we call history, the Divine Drama, praying, for example, that Satan would not be successful in stealing seed from the hearts in which it is sown).

    The sophisticated unbeliever (the “Babel” man), operating with a robust godless worldview, does the opposite, perhaps doing the same kind of work externally (doing what perhaps even a significant majority of unbeliever and believers alike would call “good”), but for very different purposes.

    Okay, enough for today – back to work!


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