28th January – Acquiring Hope

A 20th century Jewish philosopher, Ernst Bloch, in his impressive work The Principle of Hope, reminded people that hope means facing the future with creativity and courage. It is a most desirable gift to acquire in modern circumstances. He looked at attempts to express this over the centuries. People like Francis de Sales and Angela Merici clearly eliminated various fears from people’s lives, and thus made hope possible. However, we can ask whether it was typical of Catholic or Christian community practice to emphasise the empowerment that accompanies hope.

We often speak nowadays of bringing hope to the terminally ill, or to refugees, or to situations of drought and famine. It is a gift which can bring badly needed courage into such situations. We expect connections between hope and practical readiness to solve certain social problems. That is one valuable aspect, but not the first aspect in religious reflection on hope. Often in the New Testament hope is implied, not mentioned directly. In the early Middle Ages, this was felt to be an area in need of further clarification.

What is hope? The debate that emerged talked about the arduous times in life requiring perseverance. Hope flows from God just as forgiveness does. The first treatise on hope came from Eudes Rigaud, a Franciscan lecturer. He taught Bonaventure, who wrote his own account. When Thomas Aquinas used Bonaventure’s text, he turned it into syllogisms, merely logical statements. But hope is our way of narrating our resurrection faith, a process of imaginative awakening.



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