Sentences on Hope
Excerpts from: No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton, Chapter 2, Sentences on Hope, pages 14-23:
We are not perfectly free until we live in pure hope. For when our hope is pure, it no longer trusts exclusively in human and visible means, nor rests in any visible end. He who hopes in God trusts in God, Whom he never sees*, to bring him to the possession of things that are beyond imagination.
By faith we know God without seeing Him. By hope we possess God without feeling His presence. Hope empties our hands in order that we may work with them. It shows us that we have something to work for, and teaches us how to work for it.
Without hope, our faith gives us only an acquaintance with God. Without love and hope, faith only knows Him as a stranger. For hope casts us into the arms of His mercy and of His providence. If we hope in Him, we will not only come to know that He is merciful but we will experience His mercy in our lives.
If, instead of trusting in God, I trust only in my own intelligence, my own strength, and my own prudence, the means that God has given to me to find my way to Him will all fail me. Nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair.
Of what use is it for me to hope in grace if I dare not make the act of will that corresponds with grace? How do I profit by abandoning myself passively to His will if I lack the strength of will to obey His commands?
We can either love God because we hope for something from Him, or we can hope in Him knowing that He loves us. Sometimes we begin with the first kind of hope and grow in the second. In that case, hope and charity (love) work together as close partners, and both rest in God.
All desires but one can fail. The only desire that is infallibly fulfilled is the desire to be loved by God. We cannot desire this efficaciously without at the same time desiring to love Him, and the desire to love Him is a desire that cannot fail.
Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.
… the very essence of hope is freely to expect all the graces necessary for salvation as free gifts of God.
Hope seeks not only God in Himself, not only the means to reach Him, but it seeks, finally and beyond all else, God’s glory revealed in ourselves. This will be the final manifestation of His infinite mercy, and this is what we pray for when we say “Thy Kingdom Come.”
* “For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?” (Romans 8:24)