Spe Salvi 13: Is Christian Hope Individualistic?

This paragraph and the two sections that follow address the question: Is Christian hope individualistic?

13. In the course of their history, Christians have tried to express this “knowing without knowing” by means of figures that can be represented, and they have developed images of “Heaven” which remain far removed from what, after all, can only be known negatively, via unknowing. All these attempts at the representation of hope have given to many people, down the centuries, the incentive to live by faith and hence also to abandon their hyparchonta, the material substance for their lives.

If Pope Benedict XVI is citing those who embrace Lady Poverty, this is hardly a bad thing. The connection with hope is obviously what such persons do to give witness in the world. Wearing one’s poverty on the sleeve isn’t the point. But really, the practice of making room for others.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter, outlined a kind of history of those who live in hope and of their journeying, a history which stretches from the time of Abel into the author’s own day. This type of hope has been subjected to an increasingly harsh critique in modern times: it is dismissed as pure individualism, a way of abandoning the world to its misery and taking refuge in a private form of eternal salvation.

Is this a bit of a critique at the modern so-called Benedict Option? Is it about hoarding hope for one’s own eventual triumph?

The Holy Father calls on a Jesuit for today’s final word:

Henri de Lubac, in the introduction to his seminal book Catholicisme: les Aspects sociaux du dogme, assembled some characteristic articulations of this viewpoint, one of which is worth quoting: “Should I have found joy? No … only my joy, and that is something wildly different … The joy of Jesus can be personal. It can belong to a single (person) and (they are) saved. (They are) at peace … now and always, but (they are) alone. The isolation of this joy does not trouble (them). On the contrary: (they are) the chosen one! In (this) blessedness (they) pass through the battlefields with a rose in (their) hand” [Jean Giono, Les vraies richesses, Paris 1936, Preface, quoted in Henri de Lubac, Catholicisme: les Aspects sociaux du dogme, Paris 1983, p. VII.].

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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