What is hope, anyway? Remembering the forgotten virtue

Pope Francis has named the year 2025 as the Jubilee Year of Hope. Hope is often, I think, the “forgotten” theological virtue. We seem more easily to understand and emphasize the virtues of faith and charity and barely to mention the virtue of hope. Thus, 2025 will be a graced time for us as a Church to rediscover this virtue so necessary in our times.

What is hope? When I hope, I desire a good that is possible and yet is difficult to attain. For example, by the emotion of hope, someone might desire to win the lottery. Winning the lottery is in fact a possibility — someone will eventually win it — but the probability of that person being you is such a small likelihood as to make such a result difficult to attain. But you buy the ticket anyway, in the hope that this time the winner might be you.

The theological virtue of hope is similar, in that it also seeks a possible yet difficult good. However, like the virtues of faith and charity, the virtue of hope has God Himself as its object, or end goal. In other words, God and union with Him are the “good” that the theological virtue of hope seeks to attain. By His grace, God has made union with Him possible for us, and yet it is easy for us to become distracted by the glamor of the world and to turn our attention away from Him. The theological virtue of hope gives me the ability to trust that, by God’s grace, I may attain my deepest desire — God Himself.

By hope, I know that God is good and that He loves me. He can and does make all things work for my good. He is powerful enough to bring a greater good out of every evil and difficulty, and He does this in my own life, removing the obstacles to Him in my soul.

Recently, I took on the practice, recommended by another Sister, of praying each morning for Jesus to surprise me that day. It is amazing how much this has changed my perspective on life! Things that once seemed inconvenient, or even quite difficult, have been transformed in my eyes. Now, when those same things happen, I can see God at work through them for my good, delighting to surprise me and make me feel seen and known and loved by Him. I am not a victim of my circumstances; rather, I am precious and chosen in those very moments.

Faith and hope allow me to see that He works “all things for the good of” me, “who love[s] Him” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added). And He provides abundantly for my good. After I began praying this prayer, one of the Lord’s surprises came on an evening when I had been looking forward to seeing the full moon. It began cloudy, but by the time I was retiring for the night, the clouds had parted; what I saw was not only the full moon, but a blood moon — a lunar eclipse! The Lord is abundantly generous in His love for us!

Let us ask Him for the faith to see, and the hope to expect, Him at work beyond our imagining in all the little and big surprises of each day.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.


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