The Theological Virtue of Hope is a gift from God which helps a man to trust in God’s Divine Dominion and Providence and that a man can receive the true and lasting happiness Jesus promises in this life and the next. The Virtue of Hope is opposed by the sins of Despair and Presumption. The gift of the Virtue of Hope is supernaturally strengthened by the Gifts of the Fear of the Lord and Knowledge which help protect a man from failing to trust and hope in God.
The Virtue of Hope
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit…” (CCC 1817). “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man…it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude…”(CCCC 1818 ). Every promise of redemption, salvation and Heaven made in Sacred Scripture offers a sure basis for Hope, for God knows that Hope is essential for the motivation of men and He wants every man to have Hope.
Hope takes the wishful thinking of a man about his destiny and supernaturalizes it through a deliberate gift of the Holy Spirit in his soul, giving a man a certain trust that God desires for the faithful man to find the exquisite happiness of Heaven and will help the man obtain what a man does not deserve, could never earn, and could never receive except by the love and mercy of God. The gift of Hope given by God allows a man to know and be certain that God can and will save the faithful man, allowing him to spend eternity with God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Apostles and all the Angels and Saints for eternity.
The gift of Hope fills a man with confidence of his eternal destiny and out of sheer gratitude for God’s love, a man is motivated to direct his life to more fully know, love and serve God, Who is the source of all goodness and blessings. The Theological Virtue of Hope is only possible for those still on earth and those in Purgatory; there is no need for Hope among the Saints for they are in the presence of God and there is no use for Hope for those in Hell, for they are forever divided from God, consistent with their love of sin and rejection of God while they walked the earth.
The Lack of Hope
The man who does not accept the supernatural gift of Hope is often tormented by a worldly Fear which ignores or discounts God’s perfect goodness and absolute power to draw a faithful Catholic man to the eternal joy of the Beatific Vision.
The Gifts of the Fear of the Lord and Knowledge strengthen Hope
To help a man to first accept and continue to grow in Hope, the Holy Spirit gives a receptive man the Gift of the Fear of the Lord and the Gift of Knowledge. The Gift of the Fear of Lord opens a man’s soul to realize that Jesus Christ is the Savior of Man, that the man desperately needs to accept Jesus as His Savior, and that Jesus has promised to save every soul who believes and seeks to draw near to Him. The Gift of Knowledge is given to men so they can rightly know and judge that there is no hope in the world and that by God alone can one be saved and find everlasting happiness.
Sins against the Virtue of Hope
Opposing the Theological Virtue of Hope are the grave sins of Despair and Presumption by which a man rejects or abuses God’s beautiful gift of Hope.
The Sin of Despair
Despair is a sin against Hope for, “man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to His justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises – and to His mercy.” (CCC 2091). The man who falls into the sin of Despair, has not necessarily lost the virtue of Faith in God, but because of his own distorted thinking he rejects Hope, drawing the false idea that his own sins are unforgivable.
Despair is a sin for it rejects the truth that it is within God’s mercy and power to forgive all sins for those who believe and sincerely repent. Worsening the sinfulness of Despair, instead of repenting and battling sin and accepting the supernatural power given by God to help His men overcome evil, the man who lacks Hope often sinks deeper and deeper into sin, perhaps even enjoying his sin, justifying his sinfulness by the false assumption that he is “beyond Hope” of salvation.
The Sin of Presumption
Presumption (from Latin, praesoumptionem meaning “audacity, to take for granted”) is a sin against Hope for it presumes to take God’s mercy for granted, falsely believing that God will save those who with full understanding and deliberate bad will continue to commit unrepentant mortal sin (CCC 2091-2092).
The Presumptuous man unjustly seeks God’s mercy because like a lazy or evil freeloader, pretends to reject sin but takes no real effort to do so, with a sly pride of a criminal who thinks he has found a loophole in the law; it is an insult against God’s justice and His infinite wisdom because God intimately knows every man’s true motivations and behaviors. Presumption can also be the result of a fantastic pride by which a man believes himself so good in some ways that God will simply overlook the man’s deliberate and unrepentant “little” mortal sins; Presumption is often found in those who have a false self-righteousness.
The grave sin of Presumption has infected many areas of the Church by those, with a distorted view of God’s mercy and justice, promote a false mercy which ignores, fails to admonish, or even encourages those who refuse to repent and cling to their objective mortal sins in mind and deed, heretically claiming their sin is not a sin or that they cannot turn from sin, even with God’s help. Those who promote the false mercy are in danger of grave sin for they fail to offer the Spiritual Works of Mercy of admonishing and instructing those who cling to sin and because they sinfully presume that the unchangeable God has somehow changed and now accepts mortal sin.
This kind of Presumption mocks God who takes mortal sin so seriously as to die on a Cross for the truly repentant; it is also illogical for it presumes that Christ’s death on the Cross serves no purpose, for some kinds of mortal sin do not matter.