It’s a new year, and that means it’s a time for new beginnings! Perhaps you’re already attempting New Year’s resolutions.
But we all know how human nature is — we have good intentions and then we fail. And if we fail repeatedly, we get discouraged and lose hope.
Maybe your past failures already have you pessimistic about this new year. If so, then the virtue of hope is what you need.
What is the virtue of hope? Let’s find out.
Hope is one of the three theological virtues.
The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are infused virtues. That means you can’t acquire them by your own power. They have to be infused — poured into your heart — by God. Typically, they are poured into our hearts at baptism.
Note that there are human versions of faith, hope, and charity. In other words, there is human hope — connected to your natural powers — and then there is the virtue of hope, a supernatural form of hope given to you by God. Although these two versions of hope are analogous and valuable, they are not the same. You can’t have the theological virtue of hope by your own power, although human hope can better dispose you to receive this virtue.
The virtue of hope attains to God who is omnipotent and merciful, who is true to His promises, and who gives us everlasting life. With His mercy, God looks upon us in our pitiable state to remove some of the sting of our suffering. And in His omnipotence, He is infinitely capable of helping us overcome every obstacle to our salvation, even those that seem insurmountable to us.
Hope gives you the certainty that God’s promises apply to you in your current state, so long as you’re open to His grace and cooperate with it.
Sins against hope.
There are two main sins against hope. The first is presumption. This is where you become overconfident about your salvation and think you’ll get to heaven with minimal effort. You don’t put in the hard work of conforming yourself to Christ and growing in holiness. It’s basically when we behave like spoiled kids who think their parents will keep giving them everything they want, no matter how they behave.
The other sin is despair. Despair is when you assume that all will end badly, so you don’t put in the effort to be saved. Despair is an offense against God, who in His infinite mercy is ready to offer you every grace you need to arrive at your heavenly home. As Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my mercy.”
Let’s close with a few lines of hope from the poem “What the Bird Said Early in the Year,” by C.S. Lewis:
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.