In a loose sense, to hope for something merely means to wish for it with some fear that what one wishes will not come about. For example, a family planning a picnic hopes for good weather or a fat man hopes that his new diet will accomplish what none before has. Hope in this loose sense need not involve the idea of interpersonal relationship, but that idea is involved in hope in the precise sense relevant here. For here to hope means to count on another person to help one fulfill one’s desire; one hopes in someone for something.
One of the first things people learn by experience is that they cannot achieve much by themselves. Throughout life, we need others’ help to survive and flourish. But others do not exist and act merely for our sakes, and so we soon discover that we cannot take them for granted. To be able to count on others, stable relationships, based on mutuality, are needed.
In entering into a lasting communion such as marriage, people commit themselves to one another for the sake of goods they wish to share in together. Their commitments are promises to fulfill their responsibilities, and one element of each party’s motive for keeping his or her promises is anticipation of the benefits to be realized with the other’s cooperation. Both confidently anticipate benefits because they mutually believe their promises to be sincere and count on their being kept. This counting on is their hope in one another, as distinct from their hope for the benefits anticipated.
Divine revelation and faith in God constitute a lasting communion, a covenant between God and human beings, based on mutual commitments (see CMP, 21.B). In revealing himself, God promises salvation from evil and a better life to those who agree to be his people. Moved by his grace, they in turn undertake to follow him exclusively and to keep his commandments (see Gn 17.1–14, Jos 24.14–27; cf. LG 9). Relying on God to be faithful in keeping his promises, his people hope in him for the salvation and better life they otherwise could not anticipate.1
This hope is not only a wonderful gift but an essential element in motivating Christians to give the highest priority in their lives to keeping God’s commandments faithfully and doing what they must as his people (see Mt 19.16–22, Mk 10.17–22, Lk 18.18–23). In practice, one fails in hope by planning and living one’s life as if one either were not really interested in what God promises, could do without him, could take him for granted, or could not count on him.
As God’s people of old counted on him as their covenantal partner to fulfill his promises, so Jesus’ Church, God’s new people, hopes only in him. The new covenant offers a new ground for hope: God’s saving work in Jesus (see Ti 3.4–7; Heb 3.6, 6.17–20, 7.19, 10.23; 1 Pt 1.3–5). Christians have “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered” (Heb 6.19–20).2
a) God demonstrated his dependability by what he did in Jesus. One of God’s reasons for raising Jesus from the dead and giving him glory was to motivate faith and hope (see 1 Pt 1.20–21). By all he did in Jesus, God showed that his wise plan guides everything providentially to his people’s good; they can count on it that nothing will be allowed to separate them from Jesus (see Rom 8.28–39). As God showed his merciful love by giving Jesus up to death to redeem humankind from sin, so one can count on that same love for salvation by Jesus’ new life (see Rom 5.6–11). By what he did in Jesus, God showed his faithfulness, and so one can count on that same faithfulness to fulfill his promises. By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed his re-creative power, and so one can count on that same power for one’s own resurrection (see Eph 1.8–14, Col 1.18–20).
In sum, by what he did in Jesus, God demonstrated that he knows how to save fallen humankind, wills to do so, will not change his mind, and cannot fail to save anyone who, hoping in him, cooperates with his grace.
b) By working in Christians, the Holy Spirit nurtures their hope. The Spirit of God works to accomplish salvation through Jesus (see Mt 1.18; 3.13–17; 12.28; Mk 1.9–11; Lk 1.35; 3.21–22; 4.14, 18; Jn 1.29–34). Jesus promises that the Father will give the Spirit to those who ask (see Lk 11.13). After Jesus’ resurrection, God fulfills this promise by endowing Jesus’ followers with the Spirit to complete the work of salvation in them and through their witness (see Jn 14.16–17, 15.26–27, 16.7–15, 20.21–23; Acts 1.8, 2.4). The Church enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit and confers him on those who accept the gospel and enter into her communion (see Acts 2.14–42).
By the Holy Spirit’s grace, Christians can abound in hope (see Rom 15.13). The Spirit’s presence in the heart is a foretaste and guarantee of the heavenly glory for which one hopes (see 2 Cor 1.21–22, 5.5). This is so because the Spirit causes people to have and experience God’s love (see Rom 5.5), enables them to live holy lives (see Rom 8.1–13), and so frees them from fear of hell and makes them experience themselves as the Father’s loving children, destined to share in heavenly glory with Jesus (see Rom 8.14–17; cf. 1 Jn 3.1–2).3
Christian hope is for the coming of God’s kingdom and for one’s own salvation, that is, one hopes for the fulfillment of all things in Jesus and to be part of that new heavens and new earth. God promises these goods by Jesus’ gospel and will fulfill this promise by restoring all things in Jesus (see LG 48).
a) Hope is for the life of the world to come. In accord with God’s promise, Christians “wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (2 Pt 3.13). This new world is God’s kingdom (see 1 Cor 15.50, 2 Tm 4.18); it already exists insofar as God’s saving work in Jesus reconciles fallen humankind (see Mt 12.28; Lk 11.20, 17.20–21; Rom 6.5–14; Eph 2.6–7; Col 2.12, 3.1–4). However, one looks forward to the completion of God’s plan, to the full experience of one’s own share in his kingdom (see Mt 25.31–34, Rom 8.15–24, Col 3.4). This will be when Jesus comes again. All Christian hope focuses on this single future event: Jesus’ coming in glory (see Mt 24.29–31, Mk 13.24–27, Lk 21.27–28, Acts 1.11, 1 Thes 4.13–17, Rv 22.20). On that day, he will radically transform the world by excluding all sin and all evil and establishing unbreakable communion with God (see 1 Cor 15.23–27, 2 Thes 2.1–12, 2 Pt 3.10–13, Rv 21.1–4).
Christian hope is not merely for the limited happiness possible in this passing world, but for perfect fulfillment in a lasting world, where all who are united with Jesus will live again after death, with life similar to that Jesus himself has enjoyed since God raised him from the dead (see 1 Cor 15.19–23, 1 Thes 4.13–14; GS 22). Finally, while one now lives “in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Ti 1.2), one looks forward to knowing God and Jesus so intimately that, like Jesus, one will become a mature member of God’s family (see 1 Cor 13.11–12, 1 Jn 3.2), and so a sharer in divine glory (see 2 Cor 3.12–18; cf. Rom 5.2).4
b) Hope is for everything which contributes to eternal life. One hopes for the pardon of one’s sins (see 1 Jn 1.9; DS 1678/898), because grave sin excludes a person from the heavenly kingdom (see 1 Cor 6.9–10; Gal 5.19–21; Rv 21.6–8, 22.14–15), which is the principal object of hope. One hopes for righteousness (see Gal 5.5), because a holy life is necessary for communion with God, and the kingdom will be unbreakable communion with God. One hopes for the resurrection of the dead (see 1 Cor 15.12–24), because only those who share in the bodily life of the risen Jesus will share fully in his kingdom, saved and glorified as complete human persons.5 One hopes for the gift of the Holy Spirit, since he enables one to serve the coming of the kingdom, and guarantees one’s share in it (see Acts 1.4–5, Eph 1.13–14).
c) Hope embraces human fulfillment in this world. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray not only for the coming of the heavenly kingdom but for their daily bread (see Mt 6.10–11, Lk 11.2–3). While urging them to seek God’s kingdom first, he promises with it the good things they naturally desire (see Mt 6.33). Classical theology acknowledged that Christians may rightly hope for human fulfillment in this world insofar as it is a necessary means to heaven. But Vatican II’s teaching makes it clear that human fulfillment in this world is not only a means but a part of the heavenly kingdom. The Council teaches that all human hopes are embraced in Christian hope (see GS 1 and 21). This is so because the heavenly kingdom, while distinct from this world, is not separate from it; the kingdom already is present within or among Christians (see Lk 17.21).6
In faithfully fulfilling his or her personal vocation, which normally includes service to many goods of the temporal order, a person cooperates here and now with the Holy Spirit in building up the kingdom, that is, in doing the human work which God wants to precede his re-creative act. Like the elements prepared by human work for the Eucharist, the sacrament of heaven’s present reality, all the good fruits of human nature and effort are materials prepared for the kingdom, so that the body of that heavenly communion grows day by day (see GS 38–39). Christians are like secular humanists in hoping for perfect human fulfillment, but differ from them in hoping for an everlasting communion among divine and human persons on an earth renewed by God’s re-creative act, whose first fruit was Jesus’ resurrection (see CMP, 34.E–F).7
d) Hope is for heaven as a reward for doing God’s will. In doing the Father’s will, Jesus suffered “for the sake of the joy that was set before him” (Heb 12.2), that is, for the kingdom which is the goal of the Father’s plan of salvation. Christians hope that by following Jesus and sharing in his sufferings they too will share in his resurrection (see Phil 3.8–21). Apart from Jesus one can do nothing, but in him one can make one’s personal contribution to the coming of the kingdom by bearing fruit which lasts (see Jn 15.5–17). These good works done in cooperation with Jesus are not useless (see 1 Cor 15.58; cf. Jn 14.11–12). They deserve the recompense which God promises to those who faithfully do his will (see Rom 2.6–7; 2 Cor 5.10; Heb 10.36, 11.6). While a good Christian life is not so much one’s own as a grace which God gives (see Eph 2.8–10), still God is so generous that he wants his people to deserve his gifts (see DS 1548/810). It is right to hope that if one perseveres to the end, one will enjoy eternal life in heaven in consequence of keeping God’s commandments and doing good with the help of his grace and in cooperation with Jesus (see DS 1576/836).
Since Jesus’ disciples have the Spirit as the guarantee of their inheritance (see Eph 1.13–14), their hope will not be confounded (see Rom 5.3–5). Still, Christians can expect to share in Jesus’ inheritance only if “we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8.17). Moreover, although it is necessary to do God’s will in order to receive what he promises (see Heb 10.36), people sometimes are tempted to prefer their own wills. Thus, Christians work out their “salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2.12; cf. DS 1541/806), and the assurance of hope and clear awareness of the real possibility of failure paradoxically go together. Because the latter can easily obscure the former, it is important to see exactly what the assurance of hope consists in.
a) Hope’s assurance is distinct from the certitude of faith. In the New Testament, faith and hope often are distinguished from each other (see 1 Cor 13.13; Col 1.4–5; 1 Thes 1.3, 5.8; Heb 11.1).8 Following Scripture, the Church’s teaching maintains this distinction (see DS 1526–31/798–800).
By faith, a person accepts the gospel, enters into the new covenant, and is certain of the truths God reveals: that he is preparing his heavenly kingdom, that he promises a share in it to all who are faithful to the covenant, and that he can and will fulfill his promise. Hope presupposes faith’s certitude and commitment while adding to it a practical attitude of reliance on God. This makes the prospect of the kingdom’s coming no mere theoretical possibility but a reality to live by.
This practical attitude has an absolute character. While sometimes called certitude, it might better be called the assurance of hope. This assurance presupposes the certitude of faith and adds to it: Christians believe in God and the sincerity of his promises, while they rely on God for his promises’ fulfillment (see S.t., 2–2, q. 17, aa. 5–7). But how can the absoluteness of hope as a practical attitude be consistent with fear that what is hoped for might not be realized?
b) Hope is communal as well as individual. To answer this question, it helps to notice that Christian hope is rooted in the Church as a communion. Often, hope is thought of as an individualistic virtue by which each Christian relies on God’s mercy for personal salvation alone—a view which aggravates the paradox of hope’s assurance, inasmuch as one knows both that one will not be saved without perseverance and that perseverance is not guaranteed (see Heb 10.26–36).9 But hope should not be thought of as focused primarily on the salvation of each individual. Jesus’ followers are joined together in communion with him, and being one ecclesial body enlivened by one Spirit, they share one hope (see Eph 4.4).
Thus, Vatican II teaches: “While she slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed kingdom and, with all her strength, hopes and desires to be united with her King in glory” (LG 5; cf. LG 9, UR 2–3). The Church’s teaching since the Council makes the point unmistakably clear: “The entire Church will reach its perfection on the day of the Lord’s coming and will enter into the fullness of God: this is the fundamental objective of Christian hope and prayer (‘thy kingdom come’).”10 Therefore, just as individuals have faith only by believing what the Church believes, so they hope only by sharing in the Church’s hope. Personal hope is normal and healthy only when, being one with the Church’s hope, it is enlivened by charity. Hope without charity is dead; hope with charity should transcend immature self-centeredness.11
c) Insofar as hope is ecclesial, it surely will be fulfilled. What the Church hopes for surely will be realized, since she hopes for nothing else than to be perfectly one with Jesus, and he always remains with her as her hope of glory (see Mt 28.20, Col 1.24–28).12 Thus, even as the Church sails through the storms of history, she remains anchored firmly to Jesus in heaven (see Heb 6.19–20). Her perseverance is guaranteed. Now, just as an individual’s faith cannot be mistaken insofar as it is one with the Catholic Church’s faith, so an individual’s hope cannot be frustrated insofar as it is one with the Church’s hope. None will be lost who live faithfully in this community. All its living members will reach heaven, just as all who remain alive aboard a ship which comes safely to port surely reach their destination. But the Catholic Church offers adequate means for all her members to sustain their lives, and even to regain life when they lose it by grave sin (see UR 2–3). Thus, as a practical matter, each Catholic always has access to the means of being a living member of the community of faith and hope.
d) Hope guarantees only that God will do his part. Still, fear that one might not persevere is consistent with assurance that the Church’s hope will be realized. So, the question remains: How is the paradox of hope’s assurance resolved? The answer: By distinguishing between the conditions which are necessary for Christians to make the free choices they should make and their making of those choices. Hope guarantees the former, not the latter.13
The gospel proposes an appealing prospect of salvation. Faith accepts this prospect and the idea that it is available, and that acceptance leads spontaneously to the volitional act of hope: a lively interest in the coming of God’s kingdom as something he guarantees to Christians and empowers them, with all the means necessary, to share in. This hope leads one to think practically about what one might do to hasten the kingdom’s coming and to share in it. If choosing with some other intention or hoping in anyone but God, one might hesitate to choose and act rightly because that could be both costly and fruitless in relation to what one had in mind. Hope eliminates this source of hesitation. Choices can be made for the kingdom’s sake with complete confidence—hope’s assurance—that God will do his part and nothing else can nullify one’s effort.
Yet, even though this assurance helps one choose rightly, it does not eliminate freedom. God will not fail to do his part, but he does not compel people against their free choice to do theirs. A person still can sin gravely and fail to use the means of salvation God provides.14 Nor does this possibility in any way detract from the perfection of Christian hope, for although hope in God, like any other hope, is (in part) for oneself, it is not in oneself. While hoping in others (in this case, God) to do their part, one does not hope (except in a loose sense of hope) that one will do one’s own part, but either does it or not.15
e) Human goods Christians hope for surely will be realized. As explained above, Christian hope embraces human fulfillment in this world, since this world is in continuity with the heavenly kingdom (see CMP, 34.E). Insofar as one acts on this hope, the good fruits of one’s nature and effort are regarded as material for the kingdom. These objects of hope also share in hope’s assurance; efforts to benefit one’s neighbors and contribute to human fulfillment surely will succeed in the end. For this reason, “hope related to the end of time does not diminish the importance of intervening duties, but rather undergirds the acquittal of them with fresh incentives” (GS 21). However, just as Jesus’ expectation that he would rise from the dead was consistent with his suffering and death, his disciples’ expectation that the human goods for which they hope will be realized is consistent with failure in this world. Hope does not finally count on the effectiveness of human efforts but on God’s re-creative act, which alone will fully overcome sin and its consequences.
Unlike the optimism of secular humanists, who dream of justice, peace, and plenty to be achieved progressively in the course of history, Christian hope should be soberly realistic about the prospects for a better world. The situation is like that of dedicated physicians, who, despite all their efforts—and even their successes—in protecting and promoting their patients’ health, nevertheless know that eventually all will die. If they are Christians, such physicians expect human life finally to be saved, but only by God’s act of raising the dead. Similarly, all hopeful Christians should strive earnestly to serve others and protect and promote human well-being, while knowing that the human goods they cherish will be saved and fully realized only in the kingdom. John Paul II explains this point clearly:
Christian optimism [that is, hope], based on the glorious Cross of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is no excuse for self-deception. For Christians, peace on earth is always a challenge, because of the presence of sin in man’s heart. Motivated by their faith and hope, Christians therefore apply themselves to promoting a more just society; they fight hunger, deprivation and disease; they are concerned about what happens to migrants, prisoners and outcasts (cf. Mt 25.35–36). But they know that, while all these undertakings express something of the mercy and perfection of God (cf. Lk 6.36; Mt 4.48), they are always limited in their range, precarious in their results and ambiguous in their inspiration. Only God the giver of life, when he unites all things in Christ (cf. Eph 1.10), will fulfil our ardent hope by himself bringing to accomplishment everything that he has undertaken in history according to his Spirit in the matter of justice and peace.16
f) This assurance extends to goods one hopes for in this world. It is all well and good, someone might say, to be certain the human goods for which one hopes will be realized in heaven. But may not Christians also hope that goods important to them and those they love will be realized or preserved even in this world? The answer is: Yes, provided they seek first the kingdom, and hope for all these other goods only insofar as they belong to it. The point is not that one may hope for these goods only if God wills them, for he surely does, but that one must be ready to receive these goods as God wills them.
Suppose, for instance, a husband and father has cancer; his wife and children hope and pray he will recover. This hope is nothing other than their Christian hope, provided they count on God for this good and are prepared to accept it as he plans and wills to give it. For then they hope for their husband and father’s recovery in this life provided it belongs to the coming of the kingdom, while at the same time being ready to accept God’s will even if that is to save him from this evil, not now, but by resurrection. With this Christian hope, they will join in celebrating the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, so that he will be raised up from this sickness, whether from his hospital bed or from his grave.
While certain human acts, done with the help of grace, are necessary to prepare one to receive faith, hope, and charity, these three coprinciples of Christian life are acquired not by human acts but by the gift of the Spirit (see DS 1525–31/797–800; S.t., 1–2, q. 62, a. 1; 2–2, q. 6, a. 1; q. 24, a. 2). Although faith, hope, and love very often have been thought of as if they were separate acts, St. Paul links them closely and dynamically, and treats faith as their basis (see Rom 5.1–5, Gal 5.5–6). So, it seems better to think of faith, hope, and love as concurring together in the single act of living faith (see CMP, 25.4).
On this view, unless hope is impeded by sins of presumption and/or despair, it always accompanies faith. Indeed, hope in God for the kingdom’s coming motivates the act of faith: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk 1.15). Hope also motivates every choice to do anything implementing faith. As a motive for the act of faith, hope is not a free choice distinct from the commitment of faith; and as a motive for every act of Christian life, it is not itself an act separate and apart from others. In fact, hope cannot be a choice, since hope bears on the ultimate end, which is sought for its own sake rather than for anything beyond itself, while every choice is of something which leads to what is beyond itself (see S.t., 1–2, q. 13, a. 3).
Exactly what, then, is hope? It is the volition of the ultimate end of Christian life, the kingdom and Christians’ sharing in it, which underlies and motivates the choices shaping Christian life, lived for the sake of the kingdom. In other words, hope is, first of all, the interest which the Church as a whole and individual Christians have in realizing and sharing in the kingdom. Then, when the Church, communities within her, and individual Christians faithfully do God’s will, hope is not only their interest in the kingdom’s coming but the intending of that end for whose sake they make the Christian choices they make. Of course, in and of themselves, human acts could not realize the kingdom, but hope counts on God for the fruitfulness of the actions it motivates.17
1. This theme so permeates the Old Testament that no small set of texts reflects it fully. But the various aspects of hope emerge in the Psalms, and a few texts can serve as examples. God is the unique refuge of his people (16.1–2, 18.30–35, 31.1–2, 62.1–8); they must trust in his steadfast love (13.5, 31.14–24, 40.1–11) and anticipate salvation (3.8, 13.5, 36.5–10, 130.5–8) so confidently that they should be glad even as they wait (13.1–6, 33.18–22, 43.5). Also see Domingo Muñoz Leon, “La esperanza de Israel: Perspectivas de la espera mesiánica en los targumín palestinenses del Pentateuco,” in La esperanza en la Biblia, XXX Semana Bíblica Española (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1972), 49–91. A source for this and the next question (but not always followed): St. Thomas, Quaestio disputata: De spe. Two useful studies: Charles A. Bernard, S.J., Théologie de l’espérance selon saint Thomas d’Aquin (Paris: J. Vrin, 1961); Jean Galot, S.J., The Mystery of Christian Hope, trans. M. Angeline Bouchard (New York: Alba House, 1977).
2. A valuable study: Miguel Nicolau, S.J., “La esperanza en la Carta a los Hebreos,” in La esperanza en la Biblia, 187–202.
3. Hope is treated in relation to the Christian’s divine sonship in an excellent exegetical and theological commentary: Matthew Vellanickal, The Divine Sonship of Christians in the Johannine Writings (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1977), 331–51.
4. A contemporary defense of the traditional Christian understanding of heaven: Peter Kreeft, Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing, expanded ed. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989).
5. Thus, according to St. Paul, although Christians are already children of God and coheirs with Jesus to his promised inheritance (see Rom 8.15–17), they also still “wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8.23), because only by that is their kinship with God complete. As St. Thomas points out, resurrection is necessary because disembodied existence is not sufficient for the salvation of the human person: “Now, since the soul is part of the human body, it is not the entire human being, and my soul is not I. So, even if the soul reached salvation in another life, neither I nor any human being would thereby do so” (Super primam epistolam ad Corinthios lectura, on 1 Cor 15.19).
6. The fullness of the kingdom is still to come; it depends entirely on God’s grace; and it cannot be identified unqualifiedly with the Church. Nevertheless, the heavenly kingdom is being built by Jesus in the life of his Church on earth. Gerhard Lohfink, “The Exegetical Predicament concerning Jesus’ Kingdom of God Proclamation,” Theology Digest 36 (1989): 103–10, tellingly criticizes exegetical opinions which deny the presence of the kingdom, the role of human action in realizing it, and its social reality.
7. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, 60, AAS 79 (1987) 579, OR, 14 Apr. 1986, 5, explains the distinction and relationship between earthly progress and the kingdom, and points out that apart from hope for the kingdom, there can be no true justice for either the dead or the living (but only the illusory prospect of perfect justice for some people in the future).
8. Still, this distinction is not so sharp as that made in most Catholic theology and some Church teaching. For biblical faith usually includes a reference to trust in God and often implies readiness to obey his commands. See O. Becker and O. Michel, “Faith,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1975–78), 1:587–606.
9. The Council of Trent teaches definitively: “If anyone says he has absolute and infallible certitude that he will certainly have the great gift of final perseverance, without having learned this from a special revelation: let him be anathema” (DS 1566/826; cf. 1540–41/805–6). Still, hope nurtures perseverance: D. R. Denton, “Hope and Perseverance,” Scottish Journal of Theology 34 (1981): 313–20.
10. Congregation for the Clergy, General Catechetical Directory, 69, AAS 64 (1972) 140–41, Flannery, 2:570. Note, also, that Mary, united with Jesus in glory, provides the Church with a perfect model of what she herself hopes to be (see SC 103; cf. LG 68). Thus, just as St. Paul hoped for his spiritual children (see 2 Cor 1.7), so faithful pastors hope for their flocks, parents for their children, and so on. On the communal nature of hope, see B. Olivier, O.P., “Hope,” in Theology Library, ed. A. M. Henry, O.P., vol. 4, The Virtues and States of Life, trans. R. J. Olson and G. T. Lennon (Chicago: Fides, 1957), 91–92, 101–5.
11. The individualistic view of hope was supported by the teaching of St. Thomas that hope directly regards one’s proper good and extends to others only insofar as one is joined to them by love (see S.t., 2–2, q. 17, a. 3). This theological position no doubt is correct insofar as lifeless hope like lifeless faith can remain in mortal sinners, whom it can move toward repentance (see DS 1678/898, 2457/1407). While in mortal sin, one may be less interested in others’ salvation but will not be less interested, unless one also despairs, in one’s own.
12. Someone might object that inasmuch as faith teaches that the Church’s full perfection in the glory of heaven will certainly come about, this cannot be the object of hope, but only of faith. The answer is that the certainty of faith that hope will be fulfilled is not inconsistent with hope, since its assurance is based on God’s truthfulness and faithfulness in keeping his promises, on which the Church counts. That is why Christians continue to pray for the kingdom to come: its coming is certain only by the “necessity” of God’s faithfulness in giving what he promises, which always nevertheless remains a free gift.
13. St. Thomas treats hope’s assurance: S.t., 2–2, q. 18, a. 4. A commentary: William J. Hill, O.P., “Appendix 7: The Certitude of Hope: Its Distinctive Nature,” in St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, vol. 33, Hope (New York: McGraw Hill, 1966), 161–66. The present treatment, however, differs from that of Thomas by regarding as intrinsic to hope the desire for the end which he treats as presupposed by hope; he develops his concept of hope by analogy with the sense appetite (emotion) of hope, and apparently never asks what sort of volitional act the desire for the end is: P. De Letter, S.J., “Hope and Charity in St. Thomas,” Thomist 13 (1950): 231, 247–48. This gap is understandable in view of the context of theological discussion in which Thomas worked; that context has been examined by Servais Pinckaers, O.P., “La nature vertueuse de l’espérance,” Revue thomiste 58 (1958): 405–42, 623–44.
14. Distinguishing God’s grace, which is the object of hope, from human free acts, which are not the object of hope, the Council of Trent teaches about the gift of final perseverance: nobody should “feel assured of this gift with an absolute certitude” although “all ought to have most secure hope in the help of God. For unless men are unfaithful to his grace, God will bring the good work to perfection, just as he began it, working both the will and the performance” (DS 1541/806). The assurance of hope is not a guarantee that one will be faithful; despite God’s grace, one still can be unfaithful.
15. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? With a Short Discourse on Hell, trans. David Kipp and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), argues that the object of hope should include universal salvation; he quotes (212) Karl Rahner with approval for the position that there is a “duty to hope for the salvation of all men” (italics his). The arguments which von Balthasar offers for his position, however, actually are a priori arguments (as they must be, since there are no data on which to base an a posteriori argument) which succeed only if they show hell’s impossibility and thereby disprove his other (and correct) thesis that one should regard hell as a real possibility for oneself. His thesis that all might be saved also implies that the scriptural witness to hell may be a bluffing threat, which in turn implies that the Holy Spirit may be bluffing, that is, lying. In von Balthasar’s defense, someone might argue that according to him the scriptural witness to hell should be considered a warning rather than a threat, for he holds (165, cf. 49–58) “that God does not damn anyone, but that [if anyone is damned] the man who irrevocably refuses love condemns himself.” But he also often (20, 21, 25, 34, 84, 166, 183, 186–87, 211) characterizes the scriptural witness to hell as a “threat.” For an able critique of other aspects of this book of von Balthasar, see James T. O’Connor, “Von Balthasar and Salvation,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 89 (July 1989): 10–21.
16. John Paul II, Peace: A Gift of God Entrusted to Us! (Day of Peace Message, 1 Jan. 1982), 12, AAS 74 (1982) 335–36, OR, 4 Jan. 1982, 7.
17. See Santiago Ramirez, O.P., La esencia de la esperanza cristiana (Madrid: Ediciones Punta Europa, 1960), 195–205. Readers interested in an analytic clarification of the distinctions between interest, intention, and choice (which are volitional) and other principles and elements of human action may find helpful the definitions and distinctions proposed by Germain Grisez, Joseph Boyle, and John Finnis, “Practical Principles, Moral Truth, and Ultimate Ends,” American Journal of Jurisprudence 32 (1987): 99–120.