Bulletin – August 2016
“So the faith was planted: so must it be restored”
Eight Pond Place – Oyster Bay, NY 11771
The Virtue of Hope
Taken from a sermon by The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
Copyright © 2016 The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
…..In the year 1683 the Turks attacked Vienna. It was an awesome military movement. They attacked with a force of 250,000 men. Vienna had only 16,000 Christians soldiers to defend it. The Turks launched one attack after another. Over and over again they attempted to conquer the city. But each time they were beaten back. The Christian soldiers waged a valiant defense. It was remarkable that the Christians did not falter despite the fact that the Turks had successfully undermined the ramparts of the city and had blown them up. Each attack, of course, took its toll on the Christian defenders. But contrary to what one would expect, the confidence of the Catholic defenders increased with each assault, for they trusted in their Savior to give them victory against overwhelming odds. As things grew darker, from a natural point of view, the light of faith increased their trust in God.
…..When finally it seemed the Turks were on the point of success, reinforcements arrived on the scene. A Christian army of 90,000 men appeared. The army was led by the great Polish soldier John Sobieski. Still, from a human point of view, things were bleak, for Sobieski had only 90,000 men – a much smaller force than that of the Turks. However, Sobieski, like the men defending the city, put his trust in God. He faced the superior Turkish army on the field of battle and engaged the enemy in mortal combat. The battle lasted but a day, and in the end the Turks were put to complete rout. Sobieski and his men saved Vienna, but Sobieski did more than that. He drove the invading Turks out of Poland and Hungary. Moreover, he saved Western Civilization from the infidel Turks. Had the 16,000 defenders of the city faltered, victory would have been denied Sobieski. But those Christian soldiers and Sobieski had an unconquerable confidence and hope in Almighty God, and Western Civilization was saved. Confidence won the day and saved the West.
…..In the Gospel Our Lord says that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. We cannot serve God and money. We cannot serve God and the world. When we say serve, we mean giving up our hearts to one or the other. That which owns our hearts is what we serve. That which we treasure takes possession of us, for, as Christ said, where your treasure is, there is where your heart is. So we must treasure God and not the world. To do this, we must give our hearts to Him. To give our hearts to Him we must possess a certain virtue. That virtue is hope. St. Augustine says: “The house of God . . . is founded on faith and [is] finished in love.” But he also says the house of God is “built on hope.”
…..Hope is a much neglected virtue. Because it is neglected, we fail. We fail because by a lack of hope we deprive ourselves of the strength of God. For strength and grace are given to us in proportion to our hope or confidence in God. The more confidence we have, the more grace and strength we get. This confidence, which we call hope, is so important that without it we cannot gain the victory over sin and death, anymore than those Christian soldiers could have gained their victory over the infidel Turks. By the theological virtue of hope, we trust in God to provide us with all that we need to attain victory and eternal life. By it we lay hold of victory. By it we lay hold of Heaven. For when we have it, God gives us all we need, despite the power of the enemy. Hope and confidence are, therefore, most necessary for salvation – just as are faith and charity.
…..True hope, of course, rests on the foundation of faith, for by faith we know God. By faith we know that He is all powerful. By faith we know that He is infinitely good. By faith we know that this infinitely good God desires our salvation. He desires our victory and has promised us the means to attain it. Despite our failures we must trust in Him, for He is not only all powerful, He is also true to His word. He is worthy of our trust.
…..In his Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul says: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He [God] is faithful.” (Hebrews 10: 23) He is faithful as He is all powerful. This we know by faith. Nothing is impossible with Him. He has – as it were – the wherewithal to fulfill His promise. The promise is that no one who trusts in Him shall be confounded.
…..The thing to remember, then, is that the object of our hope is not us. It is Our Savior. The object of our hope is His strength – not ours. We often behave as if hope is something that depends on our past performance. From a natural point of view, that may be so. But from a supernatural point of view, our past performance has nothing to do with hope. From a supernatural point of view, confidence precedes our success because the object of our hope is God’s strength.
…..The mistake we make is to reverse it. If we succeed in doing God’s will, we are confident. If we fail, we are despondent. Yet, in truth, our hope has nothing to do with our strength or our past success. But it has everything to do with the power, the goodness, the love, and the mercy of Our Savior. God is all powerful and is all merciful. That is the object of our hope. Until we learn this lesson, we will not make much progress in holiness.
…..Thus St. Augustine says: “‘I could never hope for pardon or Heaven when I think of my great sins, but I venture to hope that through the merits of Christ I may be saved by means of penance and [the] keeping of the commandments.'” [Rev. Francis Spirago, The Catechism Explained, (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1899), p. 275-276.] So he states: “‘We are unjust to God if we do not place great confidence in Him.'” [Ibid., p. 276.] It is true that “‘we must hope for the best and do our best,'” as St. Charles Borromeo tells us. [Ibid.] But as St. John of the Cross says:”‘It is our affair to serve the Lord; it is His to provide for us.'” [Ibid.]
…..If we truly strive to be faithful to the Commandments and avoid sin and the occasions of sin, if we say the Rosary every day and receive the Sacraments regularly and faithfully, despite what we are, God will give us the victory in the end, and we will attain Eternal Life. For it is impossible for God to abandon us if we trust in Him. He will not abandon us as we learn from Sacred Scripture. If we put all our trust in Him and strive to do what is right, we cannot be lost. St. Peter – the first pope of the Catholic Church – says this: “Cast all your care upon the Lord, for He hath care of you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Thus, “he who hopes in God enjoys the special protection of God.” [Ibid., p. 277.] St. Cyprian says that: “‘A Christian whose hope is in God may be oppressed, but he cannot be overcome.'” [Ibid.] St. Francis de Sales adds: “‘Such a one is like a general backed by a strong reserve.'” [Ibid.] If we put our “entire confidence in God,” then God will take us “under His special protection” and “no harm will come to” us. [Ibid., p. 278.] The more we trust in God, the more certain it is that He will “protect us and come to our help in all dangers.” [Ibid.]
…..The Book of Ecclesiasticus says: “Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation. Humble thy heart, and endure: incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding: . . . Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, . . . Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. . . . Ye that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy: . . . hope in him: and mercy shall come to you for your delight. . . . My children behold the generations of men: and know ye that no one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.” (Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11)