We Cannot Live Without Hope
COMMENTARY: Despite all the problems the pandemic has brought into our lives, the present moment is nonetheless an opportunity for hope. And it may be encouraging to realize that our hope can be a blessing for others.
The pandemic has hit many of us hard, economically, personally, morally and spiritually. Some have despaired, while others remain perplexed. We cannot live without hope. That is a truism. Yet what isn’t always so obvious is that the lasting effects of hope seem dependent on the object hoped for and the behavior such hope yields.
Many have placed their hope in political leaders and in science. The coronavirus vaccine for instance, which scientists have concocted and politicians have promoted, has become a target of hope, but is it a worthy one? Dr. Peter McCullough is vice chief of internal medicine at Baylor University. He is known to be one of the top five most-published medical researchers in the United States. He reports that, as of April 30, of an estimated 124 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated, 3,837 died shortly thereafter. He claims that COVID-19 “vaccines” are turning out to be the most lethal vaccines ever created. However, many who also have a thorough knowledge of virology and vaccines disagree with him.
Our purpose here, however, is not to dispute the safety of the vaccines but merely to point out that hope placed in science may not be our best hope. It can be disillusioning. When people obtain the material things they hope for, they are soon disappointed and want more. Desire feeds upon desire and can be insatiable. This is because their true hope, the one that transcends all other hopes, is not for material things, but for God. When times are difficult and hope is lost for material comforts, it is under these circumstances that true hope begins to spread its wings. St. Paul tells us that “in hope we are saved” (Romans 8:24).
Hope is, therefore, redemptive.
But it is a hope that requires us to accept our present difficulties and not despair. We must act in a way that is worthy of this hope. We cannot isolate hope from virtuous behavior.
Hope will be salvific only if it is accompanied by a good life. Plato, despite the pagan times in which he lived, understood this very well. In his dialogue Gorgias, he states, “When, therefore, the dead appear before the judge ... he causes them to halt before him and examines each soul with no knowledge of its identity. ... He sees all of it twisted by lies and impostures, crooked because it has received no nourishment from truth. ... And when he has seen such a soul, he sends it, in all dishonor, straight off to the prison where it is destined to enter and undergo the sufferings that are its due.”
This remarkable Platonic passage is highly compatible with Christianity along several important points. There will be a judgment at the end of life. This judgment will disregard the worldly status of the one being judged. Souls will stand naked before the judge. Appropriate punishment will be meted out for those who lived an immoral life. To live by truth allows one to escape punishment.
Plato avers that people in power have more opportunities “for great sin.” Yet, as the wise student of Socrates goes on to say, even with greater opportunities for sin, “there is nothing to prevent good men from being found in this class also.” Plato is acknowledging that a person need not yield to the temptations that confront him and is able to remain just and honorable. The best ways, therefore, to spend one’s days, Plato states, is “to live and die in the pursuit of justice and the other virtues.”
Hope will be fulfilled when the individual lives a life that is worthy of this great virtue. In his 2007 encyclical, Spe Salvi (“By Hope We Are Saved”), Pope Benedict XVI parallels the thought of Plato:
“There are some people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth, and readiness to live, people for whom everything has becomes a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves.”
“On the other hand,” he adds, “there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbors — people from whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfillment what they already are.”
What this comes down to is that love must be conjoined with hope. An immoral life is the destruction of hope. The difficulties one suffers during the pandemic offer a good opportunity to focus on the hope that is most important. At this time, it becomes increasingly clear that neither material possessions, comfort, status, science nor world leaders can offer us the one hope that will not betray us.
We tend to think of hope in an individualistic way. Yet the indubitable fact is that none of us lives alone. The thoughts and actions of others continually flow into mine — while, at the same time, my life continually flows into the lives of others. We are linked together through innumerable interactions. I am indebted beyond words to all those who have brought their blessings into my life. My hope, then, includes my hope for others, and their hope also includes their hope for me. As Pope Benedict XVI states in Spe Salvi, “Our hope is always essentially hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too.” We should always be asking ourselves the question, “What can I do so that others will be saved?” Hope is a multitract pathway.
Despite all the problems in our lives, the present moment is nonetheless an opportunity for hope. And it may be encouraging to realize that our hope can be a blessing for others.