Pope John Paul I, on September 20, 1978 in his weekly general audience, spoke of hope and cheerfulness. I’d like to share an excerpt for you today, as we live in a world in need of hope and a smile.
Not everyone shares this sympathy of mine for hope. Nietzsche, for example, calls it the “virtue of the weak”. According to him, it makes the Christian a useless, separated, resigned person, extraneous to the progress of the world. Others speak of “alienation”, which, they say, turns the Christian away from the struggle for human advancement. But “the Christian message”, the Council said, “far from deterring men from the task of building up the world… binds them, rather, to all this by a still more stringent obligation.” (GS, 34 and Message to the World of the Council Fathers, 20 October 1962.
In the course of the centuries there have also appeared from time to time affirmations and tendencies of Christians that were too pessimistic with regard to man. But these affirmations were disapproved by the Church and were forgotten, thanks to a host of joyful and hardworking saints, to Christian humanism, to ascetic teachers, whom Saint-Beuve called “les doux”, and to a comprehensive theology. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, puts among the virtues jucunditas or the capacity of changing things heard and seen into a cheerful smile — to the extent and in the way appropriate (cf. 2.2ae, q. 168, a.2)….. When St. Thomas declared that joking and making people smile was a virtue, he was in agreement with the “glad tidings” preached by Christ, and with the hilaritas recommended by St. Augustine. He overcame pessimism, clothed Christian life in joy and invited us to keep up our courage also with the healthy, pure joys, which we meet on our way.
Read his address in its entirety at: Papa Luciani on Hope.
Take home point: God has redeemed the world, and that includes you and me. God has created us for happiness and put within us, in our very nature, the capacity for cheerfulness and hope. It is the gift of his Spirit. So let us spend this day in hopeful confidence that God indeed is at work in a beautiful way, and he binds together faith and love with the virtue of hope.