Hope 101: Lessons From Benedict XVI

Christ is with us — and that makes all the difference, as Benedict reminded us.

Pope Benedict XVI leads the prayer vigil with priests in St Peters' square on June 10, 2010 at the Vatican during the final day of the Vatican's Year for Priests.
Pope Benedict XVI leads the prayer vigil with priests in St Peters' square on June 10, 2010 at the Vatican during the final day of the Vatican's Year for Priests. (photo: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty)

If your favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11, what is your favorite quote from Benedict XVI?

“The one who has hope lives differently.” Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope)

Christian hope implores us to see life through the lens of eternity — no matter what is happening here below. From daily annoyances to heavy-duty suffering, Christ will see us through.

In this Easter season, we renew this hope. 

Our Risen Lord is with us, amid the delights and drudgeries of this world; amid the joy and sorrow, stresses and surprises; amid work and discernment and doubt; amid family life; and amid moments of fellowship and friendship, heartfelt conversation and connection.

Christ is with us — and that makes all the difference, as Benedict reminded us.

That one memorable line from Saved in Hope reflects this truth: 

“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”           
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817

As Benedict explains in his hope-themed encyclical, “To come to know God — the true God — means to receive hope.”

He continues, “… we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope …”

Benedict doesn’t ignore the “dark and stormy” parts of the journey/voyage. He underlines that hope sees us through, with holy, heavenly aid.

“Human life is a journey. … Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by — people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her ‘yes’ she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (John 1:14).”

He continues to speak of Mary so beautifully: “… From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? … Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus’s own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning. The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith. … Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope.”

Elsewhere, in Desu Caritas Est (God Is Love), he speaks again of the hope-filled Mother: “Mary is a woman of hope.”

In God Is Love, he also expands on “faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13) — underscoring, once again, the hope of the Christian journey as we strive heavenward.

“Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practiced through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God’s mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light — and in the end, the only light — that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God.” 

I remain thankful for the hopeful reflections of Benedict XVI. We pray for his eternal, hope-fulfilled repose. 

Indeed, “The one who has hope lives differently.”