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Chapter 2: Hope, Apostolate, and Personal Vocation

Question B: How Should One Fulfill One’s Responsibility to Hope?

Although it might be supposed that the responsibility to hope should be fulfilled by distinct acts of hoping, just as the responsibility to worship is fulfilled by distinct acts of worshiping, one cannot choose to hope as one can choose to worship (as has been explained in A.4). Still, there is a place for acts of hope, for hope can and should be nurtured by meditation. Hope also should be made specific in prayers of petition, exercised in shaping one’s life, used to moderate fear, strengthened by receiving the sacrament of confirmation, and protected against sins which could distort or destroy it.

1. One Should Nurture Hope by Meditation and Concretize It in Prayer

People cannot live Christian life consistently unless they enjoy doing so, and no one will enjoy living Christian life without nurturing hope. This can be done by keeping in mind the truths which ground hope and by exercising it in praying for the things one needs. Since the Eucharist makes the kingdom present and provides a foretaste of it, devout participation in the Eucharist especially intensifies hope. Intense hope gives Christian life a characteristic balance of tranquillity and energy.

a) One must nurture hope in order to enjoy following Jesus. Just as competitors confident of winning celebrate their victory in their hearts even as they undergo the hardships of competing, so Christians whose hope is lively rejoice during this life. Jesus not only promises heavenly joy to those who suffer the consequences of following him, but calls for its anticipation: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mt 5.12). St. Paul teaches that Christians always should call on God’s help by constant prayer, rejoice in hope, be patient, and not be anxious (see Rom 12.12, Phil 4.4–6).

Since Christian joy presupposes hope, Jesus’ and Paul’s injunctions to rejoice can be fulfilled only by nurturing hope. But hope grows in a kind of virtuous circle: joy amid suffering helps faithful Christians endure what they must, this endurance conforms their character to that of Jesus, and likeness to Jesus increases their confidence and further intensifies their hope (see Rom 5.3–4; cf. Phil 3.8–21). Consequently, hope must be nurtured until its liveliness bears fruit in an anticipation of heavenly fulfillment enabling one to rejoice amidst suffering.

b) Meditation on relevant truths of faith nurtures hope. Because acts of hope—prayers expressing the reasons for hoping in God as well as what is hoped for—presuppose the hope they express, they do not carry out hope as acts of worship carry out choices to worship. Still, they do intensify hope by recalling the truths of faith from which it most directly follows: that God promises the kingdom and that he can and will bring it about. Hope easily is weakened by forgetfulness of these truths and failure to give them explicit, real, and heartfelt assent; then interest in the kingdom, which always should be kept in mind as paramount, is overlooked even during deliberation concerning crucial decisions. To prevent this, one not only should use the short formulae of acts of hope, but should meditate on relevant passages of Scripture and the lives of the saints, and often engage in informal individual and communal meditation on the relevant truths of faith.

It is a serious psychological mistake to suppose that such meditation is unnecessary. Dedicated participants in other great enterprises seldom err in this way. Revolutionaries, for instance, sustain their courage by recalling their long-range goal while attending closely to anything which seems to promise its attainment. Christians, likewise, must foster hope, not allowing its expressions in prayer and worship to become merely verbal and formal, but making of each such expression an occasion for intensifying a vividly realistic faith in the kingdom and trust in the Holy Spirit’s power to bring it about.

c) Prayer of petition presupposes and concretizes hope. Prayer of petition presupposes not only faith but hope: God is asked to help because he is counted on to do what is asked insofar as it will be truly good (see CMP, 29.E). For anything to be truly good, it must be in accord with God’s providential plan, which culminates in the principal object of hope: the kingdom, in which all things will be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. So, prayers of petition serve to spell out hope in detail, and to place the particular cares of one’s life and times in the context of God’s all-embracing plan and ultimate purpose.

In giving his disciples the Our Father (Mt 6.9–13; cf. Lk 11.2–4), Jesus ingeniously provides a summary and schema for all other acts of hope and prayers of petition. Calling on their covenantal partner (“Our Father, who art in heaven”), Christians express hope for the spread of the communion of faith (“hallowed be thy name”) and the fulfillment of his saving plan (“thy kingdom come”) through humankind’s submission to his will (“thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”). The prayer also asks God for the essential means to live the Christian life (“give us this day our daily bread”), remission of past sins (“forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”), freedom from future sin (“lead us not into temptation”), and protection against the powers of evil (“deliver us from evil”).18

d) One can nurture hope by devout participation in the Eucharist. The Mass not only recalls Jesus’ sacrifice and makes it present for his followers to share in, but anticipates the heavenly banquet (see SC 8). The whole liturgy of the word and Eucharist is rich in the aspects of faith which most directly nurture hope.

The Communion rite especially can intensify both hope and the joy which flows from it. Beginning with the Lord’s Prayer, it then goes on to ask the Father to “protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior” and to ask Jesus to “grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.” Holy Communion is the bread of everlasting life, the foretaste of heavenly glory, which it signifies and leads to (see Jn 6.35–40, 53–58; CMP, 33.E). So, freed from sin by the Lamb of God, “Happy are those who are called to his supper.” Plainly, the experience of preparing for and receiving Communion will increase hope and joy for anyone who pays attention to what he or she is doing.19

e) As hope grows, one becomes more aware of God’s providence. While hope is in itself volitional, it affects concrete awareness and feelings. The nurturing of hope increases the sense that God is not an absent parent but a loving and always present Father, guiding one step by step through life, providing whatever is necessary, and never permitting bad things to happen without some good reason. Rising to face the challenges of a new day, one knows that one works alongside Jesus and feels strengthened to do one’s very best; lying down at night, one commends one’s spirit to the Father and rests secure in his arms. Such a person lives without optimistic illusions, fully recognizing the general wretchedness of the human condition and the extremity of many particular situations. Yet he or she enjoys great energy and confidence, which block temptations to pessimistic fatalism. At the same time, profound peace of mind prevents a lapse into frantic zealotry.

2. One Should Put Hope into Practice by Living for the Kingdom

Since people always should do God’s will and act for the kingdom’s sake, hoping should be their intending of the end underlying each and every choice they make. Then they will essentially fulfill their responsibility to hope. To do this, all Christians together as one Church must carry out their common mission precisely in response to hope, while each must organize his or her life as a personal vocation, a personal share in the Church’s common mission.

Question C will clarify the Church’s mission; question D will treat the common responsibility to share in the Church’s apostolate; and question E will treat each Christian’s responsibility to find, accept, and fulfill his or her personal vocation. What follows is only an introduction to these important topics.

a) Hope is not passive reliance on God but a principle of action. Some Christians seem to think they can count on God for salvation while living like those who have no hope. This notion is altogether wrong, as the New Testament makes clear. Through Jesus’ resurrection, God in his mercy “has given us a new birth into a living hope” (1 Pt 1.3), that is, a hope by which to live.20 Throughout life, hope’s assurance is to be realized, that is, made real through works of love and service. This requires being energetic in imitating those who lived their faith and so gained heaven (see Heb 6.9–12). Thus, one can hope for heaven only as a reward for doing God’s will (see DS 1570/830, 1576/836). So, Paul prays that God who gave the Thessalonians hope through grace will comfort their “hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (2 Thes 2.17). And in prescribing armor for wide-awake Christians, ready for the struggle of life, he makes hope their helmet (see 1 Thes 5.8).

b) The Church carries on Jesus’ mission out of hope. Hope, being primarily ecclesial, is operative in everything the Church does, for it is the intending of the end she has in view in carrying out her mission. To understand this truth about the Church, one must begin with Jesus. Coming into the world to do the Father’s will (see Jn 4.34; CMP, 22.B), his mission is to save the world (see Jn 12.47; CMP, 22.C). The end for which Jesus acts, the kingdom fully realized by God’s re-creative act, is to be the uniting of all things in himself (see Eph 1.9–10; LG 3; CMP, 19.B). This end is hope’s precise object. Jesus is sent to fulfill hope, which he does: all God’s promises find their yes in him (see 2 Cor 1.20).

Jesus consigns the completion of his work to the apostles, sending them into the world as the Father had sent him (see Jn 17.18). The Church does nothing without her Lord; he remains with her and sends his Spirit to teach and empower her. So, Jesus carries on his mission in and through his Church (see LG 4–5). Through the course of history, “the Church intends but one thing: to carry forward the work of Christ under the guidance of the befriending Spirit” (GS 3).21

c) Vatican II teaches that hope calls for an apostolic life. Hope, the Council teaches, not only motivates Christians to persevere through the struggle of an apostolic life but frees them from enslavement to wealth, so that they can “totally dedicate themselves to expanding God’s kingdom and to shaping and perfecting the temporal order in a Christian spirit” (AA 4). Again, the Council teaches that the laity will show themselves to be children of the promise by making the most of the present and also waiting patiently for heavenly glory. It then urges:

They should not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but should express it also through the structures of secular life, by a continual conversion and by wrestling “against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness” (Eph 6.12). . . . The laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for (see Heb 11.1) if they imperturbably combine with their life of faith the professing of that faith. (LG 35; cf. GE 2)
Vatican II refers in the passages cited to the laity, but this teaching applies equally to all the faithful.

3. Hope and Fear Should Be Correctly Integrated in Christian Life

Hope’s assurance does not preclude every sort of fear. Hope not only is compatible with fear—of sin’s occasions and of punishment for sin—but leads to it and even depends on it. Still, as love grows, anxiety about possible punishment lessens, and fear of what might lead to sin is purified of self-centeredness. Moreover, hope helps in overcoming the fears which inhibit one from living a Christian life. It is essential that these fears be conquered, for such a life is sure to involve suffering, perhaps even to the point of martyrdom.

a) Faith leads one to fear God and his just judgment. Faith holds out the prospect of heaven and leads one to hope for it, confidently counting on the wise, merciful, faithful, almighty Father. But faith also calls one to fulfill covenantal responsibilities, and warns that eternal death awaits those who separate themselves from God’s love by mortal sin and die in it (see CMP, 18.G). This warning induces salutary fear of God, insofar as one thinks of hell as his just punishment of mortal sin. Jesus himself stirs up this fear: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10.28; cf. Lk 12.4–5).

Jesus’ warning does not mean that hell is imposed on sinners by God’s choice. Its meaning instead is that God chooses to make created persons with freedom to love, that this freedom can be abused by sinning, that such abuse, when grave and persistent, inevitably results in hell, and that God reluctantly accepts this result only in the case of someone who refuses his help to forestall it (see CMP, 18.I).

b) Fear of hell always should be subordinated to hope. Sensible or imagined evils, being positive realities, directly arouse negative emotions, including fear. Thus, vivid descriptions of the torments of hell generate a powerful motive to avoid it. But even though that motive can be salutary, by itself it is inadequate, for two very different reasons.

First, while emotional fear of hell can motivate choices in accord with Christian hope, it also can motivate hatred of the gospel, regarded as threatening, and the choice to reject faith. Second, while merely emotional motives can be adequate to shape behavior which is naturally necessary for bodily well-being, no emotional motive by itself can shape human life toward its ultimate end, which, while including bodily well-being, goes beyond it to embrace the more-than-bodily aspects of heavenly fulfillment. Consequently, merely emotional fear of hell and desire for heaven need to be integrated with motivation of a higher order, that is, with volitional motivation.

Volitional motives—that is, interests and intentions—are specified by intelligible goods and evils. Unlike sensible or imagined evils, intelligible ones are not positive realities but privations. Thus, hell as an intelligible evil is not a set of sensible sufferings—which, indeed, are intelligibly good insofar as they reflect the real situation of the damned—but the permanent deprivation of both friendship with God and all the blessings of sharing in his kingdom. It is possible to understand a privation and take an interest in avoiding it, however, only insofar as one understands the good of which it is the privation and is interested in sharing in that good. So, the intelligible evil of hell cannot motivate people volitionally except insofar as they are interested in heaven and hope with Christian hope.

Therefore, since emotional fear of hell should be integrated with volitional motivation, and since volitional fear of the intelligible evil of hell necessarily presupposes hope, all fear of hell should be subordinated to hope.

c) Fear of hell is essential for Christian hope. For if one becomes forgetful of the possibility of hell and loses all fear of it, heaven seems a sure thing, with the bad result that it no longer is possible to have Christian hope for it or live a life shaped by that hope. Christian hope is the intention of the kingdom as one’s end, and some good can be intended as an end only if one’s action is expected to help bring about that good. Thus, someone confident of sharing in the kingdom no matter what, simply cannot intend it as an end and live for it, although such a person still may think about heaven for solace when loved ones die and during other times of suffering. In consequence, someone who forgets the possibility of hell ignores the kingdom when deliberating and making choices. Unable any longer to order his or her life to the kingdom, that person becomes motivated by other interests and desires, and these alien ends, pursued independently of faith and hope, make their own incompatible demands. Thus, the life of a Christian forgetful of hell becomes indistinguishable from the life of a nonbeliever.

Consequently, while properly Christian fear depends on hope, hope also depends on fear. And while hope for the kingdom always should dominate, fear of hell never should be entirely excluded. Thus, meditation on the last things, which appropriately begins from sacred Scripture, should reflect the balanced approach of the New Testament, which focuses on heaven but never entirely loses sight of hell.

d) Love arouses a childlike fear of offending God. While fear of hell always should remain, still the more a person loves God, the less he or she fears punishment. For the more God is loved, the less self-interested one is and the less inclined to commit mortal sins which deserve eternal punishment (see S.t., 2–2, q. 19, aa. 4, 6, 10). Hence, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4.18), not by eliminating fear of hell and encouraging fearless sinning, but by liberating people from sin by the Holy Spirit’s power (see Rom 8.12–17).

While fear of punishment, which can coexist with sin, decreases as love increases, another fear flows from love itself and grows with it. This is fear of what might lead to sin, not because sin deserves punishment, but because by sinning one offends the Father, whom one loves, and separates oneself from him. The more God is loved, the more one wants to do his will, and so the more one fears affronting him by sin. Moreover, aware from both personal experience and faith’s teaching that one cannot save oneself, a person is motivated by this fear to cling tightly to God, just as small children cling tightly to their parent’s hand when crossing a busy street. This childlike fear and reverence for God, which flow from love, enliven and reinforce hope by intensifying desire for heavenly communion and increasing confidence in the heavenly Father’s care (see S.t., 2–2, q. 19, aa. 5, 9).

e) Hope in providence allays worries which inhibit good efforts. In the fallen world, experience teaches that good efforts can go wrong and fail in many ways, and for many people this awareness has the bad result that well-grounded worries and anxieties paralyze them with discouragement or lead them to make “realistic” compromises between the good they desire and the mixture of good and bad they think they can achieve. However, faith teaches that God’s wise and loving plan ensures the fruitfulness of the effort of those who do his will: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8.28). Hope’s assurance is that those who love God can rely on his being on their side; Jesus’ last word is: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28.20). Christians need not hesitate, feeling that God might not support their good efforts. Even if fear of failure is entirely realistic and good efforts seem to end badly, hope looks to the coming of the kingdom, in which all good human efforts will be fulfilled (see GS 38–39).

f) Hope engenders faithfulness despite formidable threats. Fears of losing status and possessions and of undergoing suffering and death tempt to infidelity. Christian life requires a faithfulness and heroism which are more than ordinary courage, for one must be ready to sacrifice every worldly good and endure every worldly evil to fulfill one’s Christian responsibilities. Christian faithfulness flows from faith and love (see CMP, 26.G), but hope also engenders it. For by hope people count not on themselves but on God, aware that they always are in his providential care.

If one seeks the kingdom first, God meets all the needs about which one is likely to be anxious (see Mt 6.25–33). He can defeat every evil, no matter how fearsome: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16.33). Moreover, by hope one looks forward joyfully to glory, soon to be revealed, with which present suffering hardly deserves comparison (see Rom 8.18, 2 Cor 4.17). Thus, despite formidable obstacles and sufferings, “linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, [the Christian] will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope” (GS 22).

g) Hope underlies the courage required for martyrdom. Martyrdom is laying down one’s life in order to stand fast with Jesus and his Church. The martyr bears witness by faithful words, virtuous deeds, or both, and these lead to his or her death (see S.t., 2–2, q. 124, a. 5). Thus, the martyrs include not only those killed for professing their faith but those who suffer death because, for Jesus’ sake, they either refuse to do what is wrong or persist in doing what is right.

Martyrdom bears witness to faith, is a supreme work of love, and requires courage, but martyrdom and willingness to accept it also are special works of hope. Martyrs prize the heavenly glory for which they hope more than any other good, even life itself. Unwillingness to suffer martyrdom would mean setting a limit on fidelity to Jesus. Moreover, knowing their own weakness, people truly can be willing to accept martyrdom only insofar as they count on God to sustain them through tests they could not pass by themselves.

4. The Sacrament of Confirmation Is Especially Linked to Hope

Although the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist all confer or increase faith, hope, and charity, in a special way baptism is the sacrament of faith, the Eucharist is the sacrament of love, and, similarly, confirmation may be considered the sacrament of hope.

a) Confirmation empowers Christians to put hope into practice. Confirmation introduces Christians, already living members of the Church, into her apostolate (see CMP, 31.C). According to the measure of their personal vocations, the confirmed become witnesses to Jesus and play their unique roles in his mission of salvation (see CMP, 31.D).22 In fulfilling their share in the Church’s mission, her members put their hope into practice. To do this, they need the gift of the Spirit, received in confirmation, who strengthens them by assuring them that he will bring them through to the end and by enabling them to experience, even in the midst of suffering, an anticipation of the joy of heaven. Of that strength and anticipated joy are martyrs made.23

b) Confirmation is the sacrament of personal vocation. The sacrament of confirmation provides the light and strength to discern, accept, and faithfully fulfill one’s personal vocation (see CMP, 31.C). Thus, John Paul II teaches:

Each one of you is individually called by Christ, called to be part of his Kingdom and to play a role in his mission of salvation. These are the great realities of your Baptism and your Confirmation. Having called you by name, God sends you forth to accomplish what he wants you to do. He says to each of you what he said to Jeremiah the Prophet: “I am with you to protect you.”24

c) One should receive the sacrament of confirmation. At Pentecost, the apostles fearlessly began to proclaim salvation in Jesus the Lord (see Acts 2). The book of Acts as a whole makes it plain that the first Christians burned with zeal for the kingdom, which seemed to them not only entirely real but close. Consciously and constantly, the early Church lived in the intimate communion of the Holy Spirit, who guided, empowered, and made fruitful her life and missionary work. This sense of the kingdom’s reality and reliance on the Spirit are lively hope. Pentecost had made Christian hope come alive (see Rom 5.1–5, 8.12–17), and as the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost to the whole incipient Church, gathered in the upper room, so he is given today in confirmation, in order to involve Christians more deeply in the Church and strengthen them to defend and share their faith by words and deeds (see CMP, 31.A).

Thus, to enliven hope by the fullness of the gift of the Spirit, every Catholic should receive the sacrament of confirmation.25 Moreover, because the Spirit is not an object one possesses but a divine helper who dwells in one’s heart, it is necessary to keep the sacrament of confirmation fresh by avoiding sins which would evict the Spirit and continuing to pray that he remain and perfect one’s fellowship with Jesus and fellow Christians.26

5. One Should Not Sin against Hope by Presumption or Despair

Since faith underlies hope, hope can be undermined by doubting or denying relevant truths of faith. Here, however, presumption and despair are considered insofar as they are specific sins against hope, sins which can be committed without a prior error in faith or a sin against it.27

a) These sins must not be confused with various other things. It may be presumptuous, but it is not presumption against hope in God overconfidently to undertake something beyond one’s ability—“to bite off more than one can chew.” Nor is it presumption to plan to repent even as one sins; presumption is not a plan to repent but a substitute for repentance. Nor is presumption simply a choice not to repent a mortal sin; that is obduracy, which certainly is gravely sinful (see CMP, 18.E.3), but not a sin against hope.

It is not despair to be pessimistic about history and one’s life insofar as their prospects depend on anything except God; such pessimism is entirely compatible with hope in God. Nor is psychological depression despair, for depression is a sickness from which the depressed suffer, while despair is a sin the despairing commit. Nor is despair the fear which serious Christians, whether scrupulous or not, sometimes experience in considering their own sins and realizing vividly that their salvation is not guaranteed. Such fear not only is compatible with hope but presupposes it and is necessary to it, as has been explained (in 3.c, above).

Without really meaning what they say, people sometimes make statements which sound like presumption or despair. For instance, those who admit they are in mortal sin sometimes say, “God wouldn’t send me to hell for this” or “God could never forgive me for this.” But they may not clearly understand what they are saying or they may be expressing mere feelings without sinning against hope.

b) Presumption abuses hope by irresponsibly counting on God. Remaining interested in God’s promises and counting on him to keep them, those who sin by presumption continue to hope and even, to some extent, to shape their lives by hope. But, not consistently putting hope into practice, they abuse it, expecting pardon without repentance and the reward for following Jesus without the cost of discipleship. This unrealistic expectation is the essence of presumption.

An element of pride underlies this sin. Rejecting God’s terms for obtaining what he promises, the presumptuous expect to obtain it on their own. They suppose that God, like a blustery parent, threatens punishments which he will be too softhearted to carry out, and, like a permissive parent, accompanies his gift of freedom with a virtual guarantee to fend off the consequences of its irresponsible use. Such suppositions are inconsistent with faith, which not only depends on God’s absolute truthfulness but also, assuring believers that God will do his part, calls them to do theirs, as grace empowers them to do.

However, the sin of presumption can be committed without denying any truth of faith. People determined not to fulfill the responsibilities of Christian life in some essential respect, yet, unwilling to face the prospective consequences, can resolve the tension by persuading themselves that somehow God will manage to save them despite themselves. This self-deception need not be logical enough to withstand critical reflection, since that is something the presumptuous manage to avoid.

c) Presumption threatens faith and weakens hope itself. Since the self-deception essential to presumption cannot withstand critical reflection in light of relevant truths of faith concerning the duty to cooperate with God’s grace, this sin implicitly challenges previously sound faith. Absolute self-deception is beyond anyone’s reach, and so the presumptuous may become aware of the inconsistency between what faith teaches about everyone’s salvation and the subjective belief about their own to which they cling. The tension can be resolved by repenting the sin of presumption, by replacing presumption with despair, or by denying unwelcome truths of faith: that God is not only merciful but just, that unrepentant mortal sinners suffer everlasting loss, that some sins really are mortal, and so forth. In generating temptations to deny such truths, presumption threatens faith.

It also weakens hope. Rather than serving as the intention of all the choices which should make up Christian life, presumptuous hope renders many of them unnecessary and clears the way for a life-style apart from, and even sinfully at odds with, hope for the kingdom. Not being exercised, hope weakens as other interests grow strong. Eventually heaven, now taken for granted and regarded as irrelevant to present concerns, becomes a dim prospect, a mere fairyland which one used to yearn for but no longer finds exciting.

d) Despair destroys hope and gravely threatens faith. Despair is more radical than presumption, for the despairing entirely abandon hope of personally sharing in the kingdom. They will to be rid of interest in the kingdom and reliance on God, which they experience as burdens. Having sinned mortally, resisted the grace of repentance, and probably committed the sin of presumption—yet having exhausted their capacity for the self-deception it requires—despairing sinners finally throw off all restraint by convincing themselves: I have nothing more to lose; no matter what I do, I am a lost soul.

As with presumption, no error in faith need underlie this attitude. To sinners prepared to repent, hope is joy, for it provides both the reason for repenting and the assurance of the graces repentance requires and brings. But in those unwilling to repent, hope induces restlessness—the temptation, as it were, to repent—and blocks unconditional surrender to sin. Thus, hope seems a curse. Obduracy generates this problem. The presumptuous solve it by persuading themselves God will save them regardless of what they do, the despairing by persuading themselves he will not save them regardless of what they do. The self-deception of despair is made easier if hope has been weakened by presumption, so that what is lost in abandoning hope seems of little worth.

Those who despair are right in believing they cannot be saved if they remain sinners; they are wrong only in putting their status as sinners beyond the reach of God’s grace. Still, if someone with faith despairs, faith is hardly likely to last, for such a person faces the awful prospect of hell and desperately needs to evade it. The only way of doing so consistent with despair is to deny the faith, beginning with the doctrine that hell awaits unrepentant sinners.

e) Presumption and despair are very grave sins. No one doubts that despair is among the gravest of sins, since it so strongly armors sinners against repentance and tempts them to abandon their faith. But presumption, while not so grave, also is a very grave and especially insidious sin, which blocks repentance, weakens hope, threatens faith, and tends toward despair and loss of faith.28

Someone might ask: If hoping, which is the Christian alternative to these sins, is not a free choice, and if these sins themselves necessarily involve self-deception, which hardly can be a freely chosen act, how can anyone commit them? The answer is that a mortal sinner’s prior choice to resist the grace of repentance can extend into the voluntary acceptance of the self-deception involved in presumption and despair. This voluntariness, called executive willing, is sufficient for mortal sin (see CMP, 9.G.1–2). Thus, someone obdurate in mortal sin can commit these still graver sins without making additional free choices.

18. The connection between hope and the Lord’s Prayer was noted by St. Augustine: Enchiridion de fide, spe, caritate 114–26, PL, 40:285–86. St. Thomas, Compendium theologiae ad fratrem Reginaldum, 2 (De spe), provides a fuller explanation of the relationship between hope and prayer of petition (1–4) and the beginning of what would have been a rich commentary on the Our Father had he completed this work (5–10). Two recent commentaries on the Our Father support elements of the interpretation proposed here: W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Anchor Bible, 26 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971), 74–77; Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Lord’s Prayer.”

19. Many celebrants make small changes in the Communion rite which obscure its eschatological significance and thus detract from its effectiveness in nurturing hope. For example, some say “Happy are we who are called to this supper,” thereby focusing attention on the present celebration instead of on the heavenly banquet; others pray for liberation from “unnecessary anxiety” or “useless worry,” thereby focusing on temporal cares, regarding which one at times can worry usefully, instead of interest in heaven, concerning which only grave sin should make one anxious.

20. See Bo Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Anchor Bible, 37 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964), 79.

21. In addition to indications in Scripture and Vatican II, the nature of Jesus’ mission and the homogeneity of the Church’s mission with it is explained very well by Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, 7–16, AAS 68 (1976) 9–16, Flannery, 2:714–18.

22. See Robert Christian, O.P., “Midway between Baptism and Holy Orders: Saint Thomas’ Contribution to a Contemporary Understanding of Confirmation,” Angelicum 69 (1992): 157–73.

23. See Louis Bouyer, Le Consolateur: Esprit-Saint et vie de Grâce (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1980), 113–33.

24. John Paul II, Homily at Mass for Youth (Dublin), 4, Inseg. 3.2 (1980) 463, OR, 15 Sept. 1980, 2 (without the words “your Baptism and”); also see Homily at Mass in Krakow, 3, AAS 71 (1979) 873–75, OR, 16 July 1979, 13. In his Apostolic Letter on the Occasion of the International Youth Year, 9, AAS 77 (1985) 602, OR, 1 Apr. 1985, 5, John Paul II points out that “before the Second Vatican Council the concept of ‘vocation’ was applied first of all to the priesthood and religious life, as if Christ had addressed to the young person his evangelical ‘Follow me’ only for these cases. The Council has broadened this way of looking at things. . . . Every human life vocation, as a Christian vocation, corresponds to the evangelical call. Christ’s ‘Follow me’ makes itself heard on the different paths taken by the disciples and confessors of the divine Redeemer.”

25. There is an obligation to receive the sacrament of confirmation; CIC, c. 890: “The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the appropriate time; their parents and shepherds of souls, especially pastors, are to see to it that the faithful are properly instructed to receive it and approach the sacrament at the appropriate time.” However, the Church never has said how serious a matter it is for someone deliberately to neglect this sacrament. A study which remains useful though written before Vatican II and the 1983 code: J. Clement Bennington, The Recipient of Confirmation: A Historical Synopsis and a Commentary (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1952).

26. According to Jesus’ promise, children of God who earnestly ask their heavenly Father for the Spirit will not be disappointed (see Lk 11.13). Not every Christian need experience what is sometimes called baptism in the Spirit; many great saints seem not to have had such an experience. However, the Church as a whole and every Christian do require the Spirit’s caring presence and renewing action, and the charismatic renewal has enabled many to enjoy a vivid experience of the gift of the Spirit. See Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., “ ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’: A Catholic Interpretation of the Pentecostal Experience,” Gregorianum 55 (1974): 49–68.

27. This treatment of presumption and despair draws on St. Thomas (see S.t., 2–2, qq. –21) in defining the two sins and their malice, but not in explaining their etiology and consequences. See CMP, 18.E.4–5, but note there a mistaken example of an expression of presumption: “I can always count on God’s grace, and I will repent in my own good time.”

28. The pastoral defense against these sins is not to stress compassion and divine mercy one-sidedly, as has been done all too often since 1960, but to accompany the message about compassion and mercy with equally insistent teaching about the power and readiness of the Holy Spirit to liberate sinners and about their responsibility to cooperate with grace. A model is provided by John Paul II, Dominum et vivificantem, 42–48, AAS 78 (1986) 857–68, OR, 9 June 1986, 8–10.