Our little Pope, Benedict XVI, has written yet another interesting and beautiful encyclical. “Spe Salvi” is chockful of wonder, hard but true answers, and hope.
Here’s some quotes:
“Hope”, in fact, is a key word in Biblical faith — so much so that in several passages the words “faith” and “hope” seem interchangeable.
We see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future…Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well…
The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open.
The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.
It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind; but a personal God governs the stars – that is, the universe. It is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love — a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word. We are not slaves of the universe and of its laws; we are free.
Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a “not yet”. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.
This new freedom… is revealed… in martyrdom, in which people resist the overbearing power of ideology and its political organs and, by their death, renew the world.
….from the hope of these people who have been touched by Christ, hope has arisen for others who were living in darkness and without hope… this new life truly possesses and is “substance” that calls forth life for others… their way of acting and living is de facto a “proof” that the things to come, the promise of Christ, are not only a reality that we await, but a real presence… he… shows us what life is and where it is to be found.
In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for it, and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for. This unknown thing is the true “hope” which drives us….
To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality — this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.
….sin is understood by the Fathers as the destruction of the unity of the human race, as fragmentation and division. Babel, the place where languages were confused, the place of separation, is seen to be an expression of what sin fundamentally is. Hence “redemption” appears as the reestablishment of unity, in which we come together once more in a union that begins to take shape in the world community of believers.
….up to that time, the recovery of what man had lost through the expulsion from Paradise was expected from faith in Jesus Christ: herein lay “redemption”. Now this “redemption”, the restoration of the lost “Paradise”, is no longer expected from faith, but from the newly discovered link between science and praxis. It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level — that of purely private and otherworldly affairs — and at the same time it becomes somehow irrelevant for the world. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times….
[Marx's] error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions….
Yes indeed, reason is God’s great gift to man, and the victory of reason over unreason is also a goal of the Christian life. But when does reason truly triumph? When it is detached from God? When it has become blind to God?
Only thus does reason become truly human… if it is capable of directing the will along the right path — and it is capable of this only if it looks beyond itself.
….human freedom always requires a convergence of various freedoms. Yet this convergence cannot succeed unless it is determined by a common intrinsic criterion of measurement, which is the foundation and goal of our freedom. Let us put it very simply: Man needs God; otherwise he remains without hope.
Reason and faith need one another in order to fulfil their true nature and their mission.
….man’s freedom is always new and he must always make his decisions anew… Freedom presupposes that in fundamental decisions, every person and every generation is a new beginning.
….we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope.
God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us.
[On prayer as a school of hope:]
When no one listens to me anymore, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone… I can always talk to God… beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me.
…that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
It is only by becoming children of God that we can be with our common Father.
When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God — what is worthy of God… We must learn to purify our desires and hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them… my encounter with God awakens my conscience… it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
Hope in the Christian sense is always hope for others as well… It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God.
All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action.
…our daily efforts… working for the world’s future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed….
Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance — only this kind of hope can… give the courage to act and to persevere.
We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt… that we drift into a life of emptiness in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.
This is a letter from Hell.
Yet the star of hope has risen — the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God.
Because it has now become a shared suffering… this suffering is penetrated by the light of love.
To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves — these are fundamental elements of humanity; and to abandon them would destroy man himself.
Does truth matter to me enough to make suffering worthwhile? Is the promise of love so great that it justifies the gift of myself?
What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of everyday life could acquire meaning and contribute….
To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope. Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgment is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope….And in his justice there is also grace.
Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value.
….covered over by ever-new compromises with evil — much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly reemerges….
….the fire which both burns and saves us is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior…Before his gaze, all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart, heals us through an undeniably painful transformation, “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame…
….the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us forever if we have at least continued to reach out toward Christ, toward truth and toward love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion.
The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.
The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time reckoning — it is the heart’s time, the time of passage to communion with God in the Body of Christ.
….that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible.. this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity through the ages….
No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone.
It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.