Homily — Hope

Advent is the time in the church cal­en­dar when we are sup­posed to look ahead, in ex­pec­ta­tion, in hope for re­demp­tion. Today at church, the priest, whose hom­i­lies are very lulling, gave me a bit of food for thought about hope. He de­scribed hope as a cen­ter from which two pos­si­ble bas­tard [he didn’t say bas­tard, but it is the right word to use] ver­sions may arise. Despair on one end, and pre­sump­tion on the oth­er.

It is my un­der­stand­ing that his de­f­i­n­i­tion of hope is the same as my de­f­i­n­i­tion of fate. That is, hope is a be­lief in fate. I think. Perhaps this will make more sense when I de­scribe what he said.

Despair is a twist­ing of hope [fate] in­to a view that no good can come from our ac­tions, that all that we do will not de­crease the amount of woe in the world. Action be­comes mean­ing­less there­fore. On the oth­er end, pre­sump­tion says that ac­tion is mean­ing­less be­cause no mat­ter what the ac­tion, all will come to God’s good end. True hope, ap­par­ent­ly, lies in the mid­dle ground. We must give our­selves hope by act­ing moral­ly and hav­ing noth­ing but trust and faith in the out­come. The dan­ger ap­pears to be ac­cept­ing the out­come as a con­stant.

This still seems cu­ri­ous, be­cause it while this hope [a faith in ef­fects] seems to be like fate, at the same time we must be the agents that make hope ex­ist.

I think what the priest might have been mean­ing to say is that de­spair and pre­sump­tion are both ex­is­ten­tial copouts, false fates. But hope, or the true fate, re­quires en­gage­ment. If this is ap­plied to the free-will ver­sus pre­des­ti­na­tion dis­cus­sion it seems that the path is clear. As long as we choose pre­sump­tion or de­spair as our idea of fate, noth­ing will reach ful­fill­ment. Yet if we are ac­tive agents, mak­ing moral and eth­i­cal choic­es re­gard­less of their ef­fects, then fate will act through us. We are a self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy.

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