Scripture: Lectionary 482. Oct.31. Romans 8:31-39. Psalm 109:21-22,26-27, 30-31. Psalm 109:21-22,26-27,30-31. Luke 13:31-35
To my surprise, I discovered recently that Paul is the inspired writer who gives us the most references and development of the virtue of hope. We know well that he is teaching us about faith today, but he never separates our faith from hope and love. This thought persisted through my reflection on the passages of today, but I did focus more on the theme of hope.
Paul is assuring us today that if our trust in God (this means our faith) is strong, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God! Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, the founder of the Society of Mary (Marianists) had as one of his energizing mottos for us to be “Fortes in Fide.” That means in Latin to be strong in faith. Undoubtedly, Chaminade who was an ardent follower of St. Paul’s theology took this motto from Paul. I recall it often while thinking about God during the day.
Paul is the Apostle who shows us how to pray within the development of the three theological virtues, that is, those that relate us directly to God, faith, hope, and love (charity). In the research of the word hope in Greek (elpis), I discovered that Paul is the Apostle of hope more than all of the writers put together in the New Testament. In Robert Morgenthaler’s, Statistik des Neutestamentliche Wortsschatzes, I was amazed to find that Paul uses the word “elpis” (hope) 36 times out of the 53 mentions of it in the rest of the New Testament. No Gospel has the word hope; only Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles uses it 8 times; and it is found five times in the epistle to the Hebrews. Keep in mind that Paul does not just mention the word hope; he develops it especially in the present epistle we are hearing from in our daily liturgy, the epistle to the Romans. There he uses it 13 times thus as frequently as the next two writers of Acts and the epistle to the Hebrews. Statistics help us to discover themes that we could easily overlook. To my shame, I did not realize this till this past week. Hope belongs to Paul and he shares it with all of us as his intended reader then and now.
Paul uses hope together with faith and love as he develops his theology of hope. This is helpful for me since we receive all three of these virtue-gifts at Baptism and we know how valuable they are for our life as today’s bringers of Good News to others. We are all missionaries of the word of God. Thus we do literally “hope beyond hope” as Paul says. We find our thirst for salvation in hope; we are transformed into Christ by means of our perduring hope. Patience and perseverance are sisters to the virtue of hope. Luke who uses the word hope the most after Paul is his companion especially in the “we sections” of the Acts of the Apostles. It is in Hebrews that we are given the Christian symbol of an anchor for hope.
Let us not forget, however, that John, the Evangelist both in his Gospel and in the three Epistles that are under his name, does develop the virtue of faith and love throughout his works. In fact, in his two book Gospel of chapters 1-12 and then 12-21 we see faith in the first part called the Book of Signs and love (agape) in the Book of Glory or the loving Presence of God.
Paul summarizes the essence of the theological virtues in one verse: “Now indeed there remain these three faith, hope, and love; the greatest, however, is love.” (My translation). Amen.
N.B. the words used for the three virtues in Paul are pistis (faith), elpis (hope) and agape (love).
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.