Hope dies last
'Mother of fools, people call you, hope; wicked people, little people, hope', all people seem to know this song. In Poland it was a hit for many years, together with the song with the lyrics 'May Poland be Poland' of the known Polish satirist Jan Pietrzyk in the times of Solidarity.
Is hope really the mother of fools? This song is polemics against this view, says Jan Pietrzyk in his interview given to 'Niedziela'. 'Wicked people, little people' called hope in this way and these are cynics, fools, heartless people; all those who jeer at hope and who laugh at it'.
In his song Pietrzyk asked hope not to go to 'dark wood', in 'the fog of the night'. 'Hope is necessary so that man could have strength to go forward, to have motifs to resist evil', the satirist says 'Hope is needed so that we could live good, beautiful and worthy lives, so that we pursue the truth.'
It is not incidentally said: hope dies last. Boguslaw Wolniewicz, professor of philosophy, convinces us that hope leaves when life ends. 'Life without hope is worth nothing' the known actor Jan Kobuszewski adds. Thus hope is associated with the sun and lightness. It is like a spring. It gives life. Thanks to it man can see more clearly, as if through lightened glasses.
How to rise
St Bonaventure compared Christian hope to a bird's flight, a bird that wants to take off and fly. The power of gravitation draws the bird to the ground. That's why, the bird must make a lot of effort to spread its wings and fly. Hope is such a flight that needs man's effort. 'The one who believes', Bonawenture says, 'must raise his forehead to direct his thoughts up, must raise his eyes to be aware of all dimensions of reality. He must also use his hands'.
Therefore, one should make an effort to build hope, sustain and cherish it. Since it does not come suddenly and for good. It requires work and effort. Throughout our entire life we strive for greater love and when love is not confirmed and revive it slowly withers. We also pursue deeper faith, otherwise it can get cold. We should also harbour and foster hope so that we can preserve it when hardships come.
'In case of illness or suffering it turns out that even the religious cannot cope with it and say: God, do what you wish', said Fr Jerzy Zakrzewski, the Jesuit who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been chairbound for over twenty years. 'When I got sick I constantly asserted my rights. I had certain plans, which I considered important. I could not accept my condition for a long time and I could not see any light in my life. After having been chairbound for almost 20 years I understood that my revolt made no sense. I stopped protesting. And hope has returned. My illness has continued and even got worse but I experienced a spiritual revival. As if I returned to life'.
'Since hope helps you accept what you cannot change. It lets you accept that life is directed by Lord God and you cannot understand his plans completely, at least in this life. So it makes no sense to peep forcibly the mysteries that are hidden from us. Where are we to take such hope from? The word of the Holy Scriptures helps us re-discover and strengthen the hope which we have but which has been overwhelmed by fear', Fr Anselm Grün, OSB, writes.
Naturally, reflection on the Bible is a great help here. Since the Bible shows God who cares for people's fates, God who has always fulfilled all his promises. And hope flows from that certainty that God always keeps his word and never lets people down. Ernest Bryll, poet and prose writer, explains, 'Like David I sometimes walk along a dark valley but not with the conviction that the Good Shepherd will deliver me from all dangers. I have also got the feeling that I have let him down many times. And I do not repeat the joyful song of the man who walks without fear. I go with fear', Bryll says, 'but I am convinced that the Shepherd will never betray me. And this is my hope.'
Likewise Cardinal Franciszek Macharski said in the interview given to KAI [Catholic Information Agency], 'Hope is the awareness that God will not leave me alone; that he will safe my humanity and will give it back to me so that I can offer it as a gift to God and people. Hope will always stop before the gates of heaven, only love will be there.'
Illusory and true
Hope is not the mother of fools but it is wisdom to maintain life. However, hope can be understood wrongly. It can be treated in a care-free and banal way as a kind of cheap optimism. This happens when hope is not the premonition of the sense of the world and human condition but some assumption that problems, hardships and sufferings will completely disappear from our world. Then we feel we take no responsibility. We expect that all troubles will be solved without our efforts. So we escape into some form of false awareness. This is fruitless hope, groundless and unjustified.
It is true that hope helps us accept what cannot be changed. But it also gives strength to endure suffering and finally it gives courage to change what can be changed. Hence hope is needed - not only in adversities. It is also indispensable when all things are fine with us. Since we need have confidence that we can do something, can change and make things better, and it is worth doing that. For ages Christian writers have differentiated between illusory and true hope. Illusory hope is the one limited to earthy happiness. Hence it places confidence upon power, money, pleasures, and beauty. But all of these things pass away. The thing is that we do not belittle the significance of earthy tasks, human labour and efforts to change the world but we should not close ourselves only to mortal life. When is hope true? When we put hope in what is solid: in love, friendship and righteousness, and in things leading to multiply the goods, things that will exist for eternity. Saint Josemaria Escriva said that 'hope of this world opens itself to true hope only when we acknowledge the insignificance and fragility of earthy initiatives. The Lord has not created us to build a lasting city here since this world is the way to another world. Therefore, each human activity should be accompanied by hope that goes beyond time and beyond the transitory nature of earthy things.'
Madzia Buczek, who initiated Street Rosary Circles, presents a similar opinion, 'Only God can give hope to man. Thanks to him we can see sense of our whole lives', she explains 'Lord God never puts man in a dead end, he always gives him his light, graces and shows him that anything is possible. And this is my hope. I know that God is with me at every moment and he will never leave me. I am sure that if one prays daily he has hope.'
'Hope is awaiting future good. And the biggest good for man is God himself, God who gives salvation. He calls us to himself and at the same time he shows the ways to reach him. We are making small steps towards this Big Hope', says Primate of Poland Cardinal Jozef Glemp.
Do not abandon hope ,
In Dante's 'Divine Comedy' there is an inscription above hell 'All hope abandon, You who enter here'. Until man lives he should have hope that concerns both present life and eternal salvation. Therefore, Christianity has never agreed to accept such attitudes and feelings that contradict hope, i.e. despair, sadness, and depression.
St Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that even sin should not incline man to despair. 'Trust in God's mercy should lead to change of life. It is horrible to doubt the possibility of conversion. The one who loses hope of salvation adds another sin to his sins' we read in his catechetical lectures.
However, hope in God can have a false overtone if it is counting on his mercy. St Augustine warns us against such hope, 'Woe to you who despair and woe to you who abide in evil and cherish wicked hope, that means hope that leads to other sins'.
Not all things will pass away
Christian hope also means awareness that there is another world towards which we all go through our lives. 'Not all things will pass away, will not pass', wrote John Paul II in 'Roman Triptych - Meditations'. And furthermore, after this life we go the House of merciful and almighty God.
The confidence that accompanies illness, dying and death, including premature death, flows from that. This confidence gives sense to all things that happen, for example in hospices for terminally ill children. 'And although it is hard to understand it from the human point of view when we look at those who pass away we realise that death is not the end but is the gate to go further', says Fr Wladyslaw Duda from the Warsaw Hospice. 'It is the hospice that lets us look at death from the perspective of love and not a tragedy. That's why, hospices restore hope to people.'
In his book 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope' John Paul II writes that hope is the awareness that there is Someone who holds the fate of this passing world, Someone who has the keys of death and abyss'.
Hope of another world means hope to explain many matters, which cannot be explained on this earth. Finally, this is hope to meet the Invisible who has power to change man's fate and who loves man in an unlimited and unconditional way and who is man's final Hope. There is no alternative to hope understood in this way. Since this hope cannot fail.