Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Roman Catholic Man and the Virtue of Hope

For four posts, I have looked at the four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.  These virtues can be cultivated by anyone, believer or non believer.  As the virtues are habits, we do possess the ability to use self-discipline to foster these virtues. Now, I deal with the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love.  These three are gifts from God and must have God to be properly exercised. Surely everyone can use these words, but what we Roman Catholics mean by this is substantially different than what the world means, both in practice and ends.  The practice of the cardinal virtues make you a good man, the practice of the theological virtues make you a holy man.  Here is this disquieting fact: being good is not enough, we are called, Roman Catholic men to be holy.

The theological virtue of hope is ordered to heaven.  It is the desire and expectation of heaven mixed with an understanding of the difficulty that is present in this task.  Hope is a response provoked by God, ordered to God, and a grace given to make the necessary changes to stay ordered to God.  Hope will play a part in the setting of priorities in this life.  While we cannot earn heaven, we can given a constant response to God as to what we truly hope for.  There are only two trajectories here: heaven or hell.  Our call as Roman catholic men is either to sainthood or eternal damnation.  Where our hope is will determine our trajectory.

Let us not mix up the concepts of hope and presumption.  Hope wants heaven and realizes that it doesn't come easy.  Presumption, too, wants heaven and assumes it is easy.  Presumption hides behind a false concept of the mercy of God' a mercy devoid of justice.  Presumption is driven by a sense of entitlement.  Presumption looks for the low bar, while hope recognizes the high standard that is set.  The heresy of universalism (everyone goes to heaven) is born of this diabolical presumption.

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be.  The treasure is where our hope is and the heart will orient itself towards it.  Here where it is going to get rough.  Where is our treasure?  Is it in the things of this world or in the things of God?  We will know by our priorities in life.  What do we believe will save us, how do we want to be saved, and what are being saved from?

Let's take the last question first.  What are being saved from?  Do we wish to be saved from fiscal or spiritual poverty?     Do we desire to be saved from a bad reputation, powerlessness, pain, or embarrassment?  Whose the enemy?  If we see earthly deficiencies to be the enemy, our hope will be to conquer them.  Our time, energy, and resources will be dedicated to eradicating these.  I am not saying that these problems are not real.  The man of hope sees these same deficiencies but knows that the bigger problem is what separates us from God.  The Roman Ctholic man is supposed to live in this world but of this world.  He does not measure life by power, pleasure, wealth, and reputation.  No, the Roman Catholic man, knowing that the greater things require sacrifice and even suffering, will surrender these things if they get in the way of heaven.

How do we get saved?  If a man is worldly he will pursue worldly pursuits over God.  The worldly man will try to compromise.  If I sit in a pew for an hour a week that should be enough.  If I send my kids to a Catholic school or to a CCD class, that should be enough.  A failure of hope will lead a man to throw God the scraps of his time, energy and resources,  What God ask for is the first fruits of our time, energy, and resources.  The man without hope will see that last sentence and be revolted by it.  If a man believes he is going to be saved by his own efforts, he will point his life in that direction.  If a man believes that God saves him, he will point his life in that direction.   For the man called to the monastery, this becomes man all encompassing thing.  For the rest of us, is it a constant adjustment of priorities to reflect where our hope is.

Who saves us?  For the worldly man, worldly things save him.  Dedication to career, manipulating how others see him, athletic ability, academic ability, honing a skill all become paths to salvation in this world.  They come first.  They come before faith.  They come before family.  They are ultimately born of selfish desire.  For the godly man, he might well too have a career, play sports, study, hone a skill and such...but never at the cost of his relationship with God or his family.  Earthly hope will have us abandon these relationships, divine hope will make them priorities.

So the hard questions: When you have a choice between faith or sports, what comes first?  What do you teach your kids comes first?  We act as if letting down faith is desirable to letting down a ball team.  If you job is stressing your relationships with family, which one comes first?  The man who hopes in worldly things tries to fill an insatiable hole.  It is never enough.  The worldly man, depressed about that emptiness will try to numb it away.  He will turn even further away from God and to numbing agents: narcotics, alcohol, porn, gluttony, and infidelity.  The man of God needs nor desires such things as he realizes this hole can only be filled with God.  Hence, his choices and priorities will follow. 

This isn't easy.  Hope is a virtue, which means we must use discipline to cultivate it.  That means being conscious about out choices and priorities. The Roman Catholic man is constantly asking what his decisions say about his priorities and what his priorities say abut his eternal trajectory.  The Roman Catholic man is willing and ready to make the hard choices.  He does not care about the ridicule that might result.  Utilizing the virtue of fortitude, he bucks up and gets busy of the truly worthy.

To the Roman Catholic man called to marriage, as you are the spiritual head of the home, you are the one who sets priorities.  Yes, that is done with your spouse, but you model the behavior.  You have the responsibility of steering the ship of your family towards God and teaching your children, especially your sons, how to do this.  You make the hard decisions, the unpopular decisions by worldly standards, and teach them to do the same.  You teach them what comes first.  Without cultivating the virtue of hope, you will sail into danger.  In a simple example: sports before faith or faith before sports?  Ball game or Mass?  Ball game of CCD?  Ball game or retreat?  It will say a lot about where one's hope is.  Sports, by the way, are one of many...you can easily put in other worldly pursuits in the blank.  I use sports, because it is the excuse I hear most often. Are you sinking into addictions to chemicals or porn?  These are inconsistent with hope. The Roman Catholic man is not concerned with popularity, but with truth.

To the Roman Catholic man called to priesthood: We should never see that we have chose the 'profession' of being a priest as the gateway to heaven.  Our vocation is a calling and not a career. The hopeful priest speaks boldly knowing that he must as he is to the parish what a dad is to the family. If a priest presumes heaven he will poison his flock with the same error.  When we do not cultivate the virtue of hope, it will devastate our ministry.  Too often we get caught in a numbers game, assessing success with how full things are.  We can get depressed when we see our flocks make us a last priority.  If we do not cultivate hope, we will be destroyed by lack of participation which will manifest itself in either a going through the motions (oftentimes doing as little as possible) or in unleashing a fury upon the flock.  How will we know if we are cultivating hope?  We don't give up.  We are not scared of the turth. We keep up the pace and are joyful for whatever comes.  We turn to prayer as our strength and not to numbing agents like alcohol or porn to fill the void hopelessness leaves. WE DON'T GIVE UP.

The Roman Catholic man  who exercises the virtue of hope is the brave man.  He will do what is necessary to step towards heaven.  He will set priorities straight.  The hopeful Roman Catholic man is the bulwark against any and all storms that come.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written and very thought provoking. I will save this post so I can read that last paragraph everyday before I start my day!