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How do we grow in hope?

The late Fr. James Schall, S.J., often said “The modern world is nothing more than a gigantic effort to accomplish the transcendental ends of Catholicism not by grace and faith, but by our own efforts in this world.”

That was certainly the goal of the atheistic Karl Marx and his Communist followers who thought that if they just seized the property of the capitalists and took power on behalf of the workers, a “workers’ paradise” would result. But it didn’t. Instead, their “paradise” became a “living Hell,” causing miserable deaths for over 40 million people. A telling remark is that of Aris Velouchiotis, who when asked why the Communist takeover of Greece had failed in 1945, responded, “We didn’t kill enough people… Revolutions succeed only when rivers run red with blood, and blood has to be spilled if what you are aiming for is the perfectibility of the human race.”

Why doesn’t Communism work, and why aren’t Marxist solutions working now? Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who survived eight years in a Soviet Gulag (forced labor camp), gave this answer: “Men have forgotten God.”

What’s so bad about “forgetting God”? Several things: First, if there is no afterlife, there is great urgency to rectify perceived injustices now, which encourages the use of violent rather than peaceful means, which encourages retaliatory violence. Second, if there is no God, no Divine Law Giver, who decides what behaviors and means are moral and just? Third, if there is no Judgment after death, the cruel person is never punished and the just and kind person never rewarded. Fourth, the person who believes in God knows that a just society will never result just from creating new social structures. Sin will still exist and will always exist, and for improvement to actually take place, citizens must continually repent and amend their lives, striving to respond to the love of their Creator by keeping his Commandments. To quote Anthony Esolen: “The measure of a nation is the men it produces, and the beauty and goodness of the lives they lead.”

In 2015, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter said that she and another co-founder were “trained Marxists.” And earlier this year, the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York argued that his organization and others like it are justified in using destruction to call attention to their grievances with American society. The riots, arson, vandalism, looting and blocking of freeways that recently took place in Minneapolis are consistent with this thinking.

Then compare those actions with those who believe that the legalized killing of unborn people is the civil rights issue of our day. They don’t burn buildings, loot, or block freeways to “call attention to their grievances.” Why? Because they have not “forgotten God.” To quote Martin Luther King: “Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis, the end is preexistent in the mean.” Or, as the Catholic Catechism says, “The end does not justify the means.” Or Socrates, “It is never right to do wrong.”

How we live now is influenced by our belief in the afterlife, and eternal life is determined by how we live now. That is the message of Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spe Salvi (In hope we are saved). In this encyclical he writes: “Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live in the present as well… 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, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect."

How do we grow in hope? Pope Benedict recommends:

  1. Prayer. Pray to God when all seems hopeless. God listens.

  2. Action. “All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action…”

  3. Suffering. “A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion’ is a cruel and inhuman society… the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity.” “Offer up” minor daily hardships.

  4. Meditate on the Last Judgment. God made us to “know Him, love Him and serve Him and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.” For those who have done this, the heart’s deepest longing is satisfied. We are “home.” And since God is infinite, we will never tire of exploring His beauty, goodness, truth and love.

  5. Ask “What can I do in order that others may be saved?”

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