Hope as a virtue

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

What is your hope? Or what do people really hope for? People's hopes might depend on their life circumstances. Perhaps, the bedridden old man hopes he gets recovered from his ailment. The school leaver, hopes he finds "labour at the favour market". The newly married couple hopes they would find peace and happiness with children, and wealth. The pregnant woman hopes she will have a bouncing baby boy or girl as the case may be.

The lists could really go on ad infinitum. But the issue is that hope is not just all about temporality; all about what we hope about our lives on earth; or what we hope to obtain from life. Hope is also about eternity. It has concerns for the otherworldliness. As Christians, what do we hope for?

As Christians we hope to go to heaven. We hope to obtain the salvation Jesus wrought for us. It is from this perspective that we can understand hope as a theological virtue. As a theological virtue, hope enables us to long for heaven; and to long for the things of God.

Longing for heaven, or God or things of God is not a common longing because we long more for things of earth than heaven. Besides, as humans who are imperfect, going to heaven is a herculean task. From our human point of view, it might look impossible. But it is hope as a theological virtue that sustains us to drive for heaven and heavenly things.

In the pursuit of heaven, we notice two extremes: we may be pessimistic or presumptive. In our pessimism, we may deny ourselves the certainty that we too can make heaven, and as such, desperation, and possible loss of heaven might be our lot. Despair can also make us imagine that God's promises are not true. It can make us doubt the mercy of God; and as such, we give up on our heavenly race.

On the other hand, in our presumption, we may just believe that we will always make it, and so, we fail to accompany our faith with good works (James 2: 14-17); and unfortunately, we may lose heaven. The Jews, for instance, thought they had Abraham as their father, and that alone was like a guarantee for their heavenly assurance.

For those of us living today we may believe that our Church, or my position or status in our Church can guarantee my heavenly race. But that is not true. It is hope as a virtue that makes us use God's graces in our hearts to persevere until we make heaven. It is like praying without losing heart which Jesus advocates (Luke 18: 1).

The Holy Spirit pours out graces upon us that enables us to become heirs of God's kingdom with the hope of eternal life (Titus 3: 6). It is this hope of eternal life that motivates us to sacrifice all things for the sake of heaven. As Christians we are called to be citizens of heaven. We are not earthbound.

On earth, we are on pilgrimage to heaven because heaven is our home. All our hopes for things of the world, will come to an end at some point. It is hope as theological virtue that encourages us to carry on till we make heaven. It behooves us therefore, to hope beyond temporality to eternity. That is our challenge. Let us hope for heaven.

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