Why We Should Embrace Hope as We Enter 2018

Hope has eyes.

Hope sees the world differently and gives us new ground upon which to stand. It “gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations,” as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salvi. Hope is not blind; rather, it changes how we see. It does this not by causing us to avert our eyes from a difficult reality, but by drawing our eyes to it so that something different can reveal itself. Upon healing the man born blind, Jesus tells his opponents, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” As long as we believe that what we see is in fact all there is to see, we lose what is most vital: our openness to all that remains hidden. We lose sight of the fact that we all have major blind spots. Hope gives us eyes to see what is otherwise unseen. “In a short time the world will no longer see me,” Jesus tells his followers, “but you will see that I live, and you will live also.”

Hope arises through suffering.

Hope emerges most brightly in deprivation and darkness because it offers us a vision that is not limited to what is immediately at hand. Hope is the star of Bethlehem, most visible on the darkest day of the year. Benedict calls this hope “great”: “Certainly, in our many different sufferings and trials we always need the lesser and greater hopes too—a kind visit, the healing of internal and external wounds, a favorable resolution of a crisis, and so on. In our lesser trials these kinds of hope may even be sufficient. But in truly great trials, I need the certitude of that true, great hope.” He even proclaims that our very capacity to suffer “depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.” Hope allows us to find meaning in our suffering, to see that although God does not will our suffering, God is fully committed to creating good from it.

Hope is a way of living with others.

“The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope,” Benedict exhorts us. In hope, “the dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” Hope moves our feet. It is dynamic. It is not meant to be a mere idea; it is meant to be lived and it is meant to be given. Benedict XVI puts it this way: “Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? 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.”