The Virtue of Hope

(Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C)

Bottom line: The virtue of hope enables one to persevere until the end, to dedicate all to God.

Today's readings speak about hope. We need the virtue of hope, especially this time of year. All around us we see the dying of nature and it reminds us of our own inevitable death - and the end of the world. In face of death, what hope do you and I have?

To understand what kind of hope we have, I would like to begin with a distinction that Bishop Sheen made. (Bishop Sheen was the great television preacher of the 50's and 60's.) He distinguished between the virtue and the emotion of hope. "The emotion of hope," he said, "centers on the body and is a kind of dreamy desire that we can be saved without much effort."* The emotion of hope causes a person to think, "Oh, I do not need to worry about my sins. God will take good care of me in the end."

The virtue of hope differs greatly from that dreamy emotion. Bishop Sheen defines the virtue of hope this way: "a divinely infused disposition of the will by which with sure confidence, thanks to the powerful help of Almighty god, we expect to pursue eternal happiness, using all the means necessary for attaining it." While the emotion of hope is centered in the body, the virtue of hope is centered in the will.

We can see the virtue of hope at work in our Bible readings. After describing the coming crisis, Jesus says, "by your perseverance you will secure your lives." Or as another translation says, "By your endurance you will gain your souls." (Revised Standard Version) Hope leads to perseverance, the endurance by which a person saves his soul.

St. Paul exemplifies the perseverance that flows from the virtue of hope. He tells us that he "worked day and night." This does not mean he was some kind of American style workaholic. Rather he dedicated every moment to God, including things that a person might consider "leisure": walking on a Roman road, traveling at sea, engaged in all night conversations (e.g. Acts 20:11), as well as studying Scripture, participating in the Eucharist,** writing letters and making canvas tents. Whatever he did, day or night, he dedicated to God.

St. Paul had a firm hope, centered in his will - by the grace of God. As we see in the life of Paul, hope makes Stewardship possible - it enabled him to dedicate all to God. I invite you to join me in praying for that virtue. Not a dreamy emotion, but a virtue centered in the will. The virtue of hope enables one to persevere until the end, to dedicate all to God. Amen.


*From "Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Fulton J. Sheen," by Michael Dubruiel.

**Regarding St. Paul's celebration of the Eucharist, besides Acts 20:7 (gathering on Sunday for "the breaking of the bread") and I Cor 11:23 (Paul handing on the tradition of the Last Supper), it is suggestive that in Rom 15:16 Paul refers to himself as "leiturgos." The Jerome Biblical Commentary states: "Paul describes his role in liturgical language, using neither diakonos, 'servant' as in 2 Cor 3:6, nor oikonomos, 'steward' as in I Cor 4:1, but leitourgos, 'cultic minister.'"

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Thirty-Second Sunday, Year C):

2016: Stewards of Mercy Week 3: Work Quietly
2013: About Marriage and Broken Marriage
2010: The Virtue of Hope
2007: Night and Day We Worked
2004: Facing the End of Life
2001: The Coming Catastrophe
1998: The Choice is Yours

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