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The Last Things, Part I: The Virtue of Hope
Posted By Eric Sammons On November 1, 2010 @ 8:11 am In Spirituality | Comments Disabled
The Virtue of Hope
First in a seven-part series
Today is the first day of November, which means today is All Saints Day, tomorrow is All Souls Day, and this month we are called upon by the Church to reflect on the “Last Things”, i.e. those things surrounding our death and what will happen to us after that momentous event. In this series I’d like to reflect on these topics with the purpose of helping all of us in some small way to prepare for the day when we face our Lord and have to face an accounting of our life. The topics I will address will include the traditional “Four Last Things” – death, judgement, hell and heaven, along with eternity and purgatory.*
Before diving directly into topics such as eternity, death and judgement, I’d like to take a moment to turn our attention to the virtue of hope. Unfortunately, hope is often the “forgotten” theological virtue, as charity is the greatest of the three and faith is the entrance into the Christian life. But hope is vitally important, and it is the virtue which must undergird all our thoughts about the afterlife.
Hope is the virtue which points us toward the future and our final end. It is that virtue in which we steadfastly turn toward man’s true fulfillment, which is God. This pointing ourselves toward our ultimate end, God, is what makes hope a theological virtue. It is not merely a human virtue and in fact, if it were merely human in nature, it would be no virtue at all. If we only hoped for created goods, this would be no more than optimism and perhaps even greed. But true hope desires the true fulfillment of every man: God.
The irony of the human condition is that we hope for what we have no power to attain. We were made for God yet we have no ability to reach Him under our own power. As St. Augustine said, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee” – yet how do we rest in God? It is only by the grace of God that this is possible; no amount of human striving will ever achieve this goal and no amount of effort will win it. What we most hope for is a gift which is completely undeserved on our part. Yet we can hope with complete confidence that God will give us this gift, as His love and mercy know no bounds. Our hope is not baseless optimism, but solid realism, for we know that God wants our salvation even more than we do.
As we turn our thoughts towards the end of our earthly lives, let us always pray for the increase of the virtue of hope so that we can look upon our own deaths as something we can look forward to, not something to dread.
In the next post of this series, I will look at that most mysterious subject of eternity.
* I am very dependent on the reflections of Dr. Regis Martin of the Franciscan University of Steubenville for this series. I highly recommend his book on this subject, The Last Things  (Ignatius Press).
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 The Last Things: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Things-Death-Judgment-Heaven/dp/0898706629/
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