|Venerable Louis of Granada|
The following passage is taken from The Sinner's Guide by Venerable Louis of Granada.
The joy of a good conscience is always accompanied by that blessed hope of which the Apostle speaks when he tells us to rejoice in hope and to be patient in tribulation. (Cf. Rom. 12:12). This is the rich inheritance of the children of God, their general refuge in tribulation, and their most efficacious remedy against all the miseries of life.
Before entering upon this subject we must bear in mind that as there are two kinds of faith, one barren and dead, the other living and strengthened by charity, fruitful in good works; so there are two kinds of hope, one barren, which gives the soul no light in darkness, no strength in weakness, no consolation in tribulation; the other "lively" (Cf. 1Pet. 1:3), which consoles us in sorrow, strengthens us in labor, and sustains us in all the dangers and trials of this world.
This living hope works in the soul many marvelous effects, which increase according as the charity which accompanies it becomes more ardent. The first of these effects is the strength which supports man under the labors of life by holding before his eyes the eternal reward reserved for him; for, in the opinion of the saints, the stronger this hope of reward the greater is man's courage in overcoming obstacles in the path of virtue.
"Hope," says St. Gregory, "fixes our hearts so steadfastly upon the joys of Heaven that we are insensible to the miseries of this life." "The hope of future glory," Origen tells us, "sustains the just under the trials of life, as the hope of victory supports the soldier during battle." "If the furious tempests of the sea," says St. Chrysostom, "cannot daunt the sailor; if hard frosts and withering blight cannot discourage the farmer; if neither wounds nor death itself affright the soldier; if neither falls nor blows dishearten the wrestler, because of the fleeting recompense they hope from their labors, how much greater should be the courage of a Christian, who is toiling for an eternal reward! Therefore, consider not the roughness of the path of virtue, but rather the end to which it leads; look not upon the pleasures which strew the path of vice, but rather upon the precipice to which it is hurrying you." Who is so foolish as willingly to pursue a path, though strewn with flowers, if it lead to destruction? Who, conversely, would not choose a rugged and difficult path if it lead to life and happiness?
Holy Scripture is full of commendations of this blessed hope. "The eyes of the Lord," the prophet Hanani tells King Asa, "behold all the earth, and give strength to them that with a perfect heart trust in him." (2Par. 16:9). "The Lord is good to them that hope in him, and to the soul that seeketh him." (Lam. 3:25). "The Lord is good, and giveth strength in the day of trouble, and knoweth them that hope in him." (Nahum 1:7).
"If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved; in silence and in hope shall your strength be." (Is. 30:15) By silence the prophet here signifies that interior calm and sweet peace experienced by the soul amid all her troubles, and which is the result of that hope in God's mercy which expels all fear. "Ye that fear the Lord, hope in him, and mercy shall come to you for your delight. My children, behold the generations of men, and know ye that no one man hath hoped in the Lord and hath been confounded." (Ecclus. 2:9,11).
"Mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord."(Ps. 31:10). Mark the strength of this word encompass, by which the prophet teaches us that a virtuous man is shielded by God's protection, as a king surrounded by his guards. Read the Psalms, and you will see how beautifully David speaks of the power and merit of divine hope.
In one of his sermons, St. Bernard dwells at some length on this virtue, and concludes by saying, "Faith teaches us that God has inestimable rewards reserved for His faithful servants. Hope answers, 'It is for me that they are prepared'; and charity, inspired by hope, cries out, 'I will hasten to possess them.'"Behold, then, the happy fruits of hope! It is a port of refuge from the storms of life; it is a buckler against the attacks of the world; it is a storehouse to supply us in the time of famine; it is the shade and tent of which Isaias spoke, to protect us from the heat of summer and the frosts of winter; in fine, it is a remedy for all our evils, for there is no doubt that all we confidently and justly hope from God will be granted to us, if for our welfare. Hence St. Cyprian says that God's mercy is a healing fountain, hope a vessel into which its waters flow. Therefore, the larger the vessel the more abundantly will we receive of these waters. God told the children of Israel that every place upon which they set their feet should be theirs. So every salutary blessing upon which man fixes his hope will be granted to him. Hope, then, for all blessings, and you will obtain them.
Thus we see that this virtue is an imitation of the divine power; for, says St. Bernard, nothing so manifests the power of God as the omnipotence with which He invests those who hope in Him. Witness Josue, at whose command the sun stood still; or Ezechiel, who bade King Ezechias choose whether he would have the sun advance or go backward in its course, as a sign from God.
In studying the inestimable treasures of hope, you have some idea of one of the blessings of which the wicked are deprived. Whatever hope remains to them is dead; destroyed by sin, it can produce none of the glorious fruits we have been considering. Distrust and fear as inevitably accompany a bad conscience as the shadow does the body. Hence the happiness of the sinner is the measure of his hope. He sets his heart upon the vanities and follies of the world; he rejoices in them; he glories in them; and in them he hopes in the time of affliction.
It is of such hope that God speaks when He says, "The hope of the wicked is as dust, which is blown away with the winds, and as a thin froth which is dispersed by the storm; and a smoke which is scattered abroad by the wind." (Wis. 5:15). Can you imagine a weaker or a vainer confidence than this? But it is not only vain, it is deceptive and injurious. "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, trusting in horses, and putting their confidence in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; and have not trusted in the Holy One of Israel, and have not sought after the Lord. Egypt is man, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit; and the Lord shall put down his hand, and the helper shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall, and they shall all be confounded together." (Is. 31:1,3).
Behold, dear Christian, the difference between the hope of the just and the hope of the wicked. One is of the flesh, the other of the spirit; one is centered in man, the other in God. And even as God exceeds man, so does the hope of the just exceed that of the sinner.
Therefore, the prophet exhorts us, "Put not your trust in princes; in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. Blessed is he who hath the God of Jacob for his helper, whose hope is in the Lord his God; who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them." (Ps. 114:3,5-6).
"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God. They are bound, and have fallen; but we are risen, and are set upright." (Ps. 19:8-9). Thus we see that our hopes are realized according to that upon which they rest, in ruin and destruction, or in honor and victory.
Therefore, he whose hope is fixed upon the things of this world is rightly compared to the man in the Gospel who built his house upon the sand and beheld it beaten down by the rain and winds; while he whose hope is fixed upon the things of Heaven is like the man whose house was built upon a rock, and which stood unshaken amidst the storms. (Cf. Matt. 7:25).
"Cursed be he," cries out the prophet, "that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like tamaric [a barren shrub] in the desert, and he shall not see when good shall come; but he shall dwell in dryness in the desert, in a salt land and not inhabited. But blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and the Lord shall be his confidence; and he shall be as a tree that is planted by the waters, that spreadeth out its roots towards moisture; and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. And the leaf thereof shall be green, and in the time of drought it shall not be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit." (Jer. 17:5-9).
Can there be any misery compared to life without hope? To live without hope is to live without God. If this support be taken from man, what remains for him? There is no nation, however barbarous, that has not some knowledge of a god whom they worship and in whom they hope. When Moses was absent for a short time from the children of Israel, they imagined themselves without God; and in their ignorance they besought Aaron to give them a god, for they feared to continue without one. Thus we see that human nature, though ignorant of the true God, instinctively acknowledges the necessity of a Supreme Being, and, recognizing its own weakness, turns to God for assistance and support.
As the ivy clings to a tree, and as woman naturally depends on man, so human nature in its weakness and poverty seeks the protection and assistance of God. How deplorable, then, is the condition of those who deprive themselves of His support! Whither can they turn for comfort in trials, for relief in sickness? Of whom will they seek protection in dangers, counsel in difficulties? If the body cannot live without the soul, how can the soul live without God? If hope, as we have said, be the anchor of life, how can we trust ourselves without it on the stormy sea of the world? If hope be our buckler, how can we go without it into the midst of our foes?
What we have said must sufficiently show us that an infinite distance separates the hope of the just from that of the wicked. The hope of the just man is in God, and that of the wicked is in the staff of Egypt, which breaks and wounds the hand which sought its support. For when man leans upon such a reed, God wishes to make him sensible of his error by the sorrow and shame of his fall. We have an example of this in God's treatment of Moab: "Because thou hast trusted in thy bulwarks, and in thy treasures, thou also shalt be taken: and Chamos [the god of the Moabites] shall go into captivity, his priests, and his princes together." (Jer. 48:7). Consider what a support that is which brings ruin upon those who invoke it.
Behold, then, dear Christian, how great is this privilege of hope, which, though it appears one with the special providence of which we have been treating, differs from it, nevertheless, as the effect differs from the cause. For though the hope of the just proceeds from several causes, such as the goodness of God, the truth of His promises, the merits of Christ, yet its principal foundation is this paternal providence. It is this which excites our hope; for who could fail in confidence, knowing the fatherly care that God has for us all?