Spe Salvi 8: Hope and a New Freedom

This has been admittedly slow-going. Reminds me of reading Hans Küng or Karl Rahner in grad school. Nevertheless, we continue on the relationship between the present and the future …

8. This explanation is further strengthened and related to daily life if we consider verse 34 of the tenth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, which is linked by vocabulary and content to this definition of hope-filled faith and prepares the way for it. Here the author speaks to believers who have undergone the experience of persecution and he says to them: “you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property (hyparchonton—Vg.bonorum), since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession (hyparxin—Vg.substantiam) and an abiding one.” Hyparchonta refers to property, to what in earthly life constitutes the means of support, indeed the basis, the “substance” for life, what we depend upon.

In this life, we know there can be people who suffer a material lack, either something essential like air, food, and water. Or something desired as a “proper” level of life, a degree of plenty like good grades, nice clothes, an ease of transportation, leisure, and such. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the experience of martyrdom–a more grave situation in which believers find themselves very much in need of the virtue of hope.

This “substance”, life’s normal source of security, has been taken away from Christians in the course of persecution. They have stood firm, though, because they considered this material substance to be of little account. They could abandon it because they had found a better “basis” for their existence—a basis that abides, that no one can take away.

An aspiration far deeper than a wish that “I hope I succeed.”

We must not overlook the link between these two types of “substance”, between means of support or material basis and the word of faith as the “basis”, the “substance” that endures. Faith gives life a new basis, a new foundation on which we can stand, one which relativizes the habitual foundation, the reliability of material income.

The Holy Father speaks of a “new freedom.” Would you agree with this synthesis:

A new freedom is created with regard to this habitual foundation of life, which only appears to be capable of providing support, although this is obviously not to deny its normal meaning. This new freedom, the awareness of the new “substance” which we have been given, is revealed not only in martyrdom, in which people resist the overbearing power of ideology and its political organs and, by their death, renew the world. Above all, it is seen in the great acts of renunciation, from the monks of ancient times to Saint Francis of Assisi and those of our contemporaries who enter modern religious Institutes and movements and leave everything for love of Christ, so as to bring to men and women the faith and love of Christ, and to help those who are suffering in body and spirit. In their case, the new “substance” has proved to be a genuine “substance”; from the hope of these people who have been touched by Christ, hope has arisen for others who were living in darkness and without hope. In their case, it has been demonstrated that this new life truly possesses and is “substance” that calls forth life for others. For us who contemplate these figures, their way of acting and living is de facto a “proof” that the things to come, the promise of Christ, are not only a reality that we await, but a real presence: he is truly the “philosopher” and the “shepherd” who shows us what life is and where it is to be found.

And we see various Christian traditions–not only martyrdom–lauded as expressions of hope. Certainly the early monastic movement which found men and women leaving behind life in the world to retreat to the wilderness to gather and live out the Gospel apart from temptation. The quality of evangelical poverty, yes. Also, the motivation behind many religious orders and movements of the past centuries.

For today’s Christian, are we prepared to seek a hope that would lead us on paths unknown, even cut off from the hopes of our childhood and youth?

This document is Copyright © 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the full document online here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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