I didn’t become Catholic till much later in life, but I like to think I always had Catholic guilt. I have always felt like something was wrong. There was this undeniable sense that I was not “ok”. If you asked me what I meant by “ok”, I could never tell you exactly. I just knew I was not there.
It’s this constant feeling that things will go wrong – not just in my spiritual life but in everything. Was there something I didn’t think of? Maybe life is supposed to be pain, and if I’m not feeling it, then I’m right around the corner from it. Maybe I’m not feeling it, but I should be feeling it.
No point in having friends because I’ll let them down. No point in trying because it’s a waste of time anyway. I can’t tell you how long I went before actually hunkering down and committing to this blog/podcast/music thing because I always thought, “What’s the point? One blog in 10 million. Who cares?”
At the heart of this is the gnawing sense of despair. I will never be smart enough. I will never have done enough. I will never be strong enough.
2020 seems to be the year everyone else joined me in my neurosis. We aren’t beating this virus. It keeps coming back. The economy is tanking. There are riots in the streets. We’re all a bunch of racists. We can’t overcome our political divide. We’re entering a socialist nightmare, or we’re entering the end of democracy as we know it. One or the other depending on who you talk to. It’s pretty bleak out there.
But in the middle of all of this, the Catholic faith holds out to us a gift. It’s the gift of this virtue that is, in fact, one of the three most important virtues – a virtue we can’t get on our own. It’s power in our lives comes from God himself.
I’m talking about hope.
Hope is what we need to believe the astonishing, almost unbelievable truth that even though Heaven is way up there, and we’re way down here, we can reach it.
It’s not by our own power that we can do it. We need God’s love (another virtue) and faith (yet another) infused into us by God himself. But still, to hope is to believe it can be done. I’m not ok now, but I can be. Every day I can be a little bit more ok until I finally reach that great ok-ness in the presence of God.
“What does that have to do with the here and now, though?” you might wonder. For all of us, the overarching goal of life is to ultimately spend eternity with God. So if I reverse engineer backwards from that final end, I can see that every moment leading up to it must be orchestrated by God to get me there.
In other words, I can have supernatural hope that my trial here today, my suffering there tomorrow, my pay raise or cut, my marriage, the guy who cut me off on the way to work, the friend who gossiped about me, and every other detail in my life both big and small are all pulling together for my ultimate good. The “fingers of God,” as one Puritan writer put it, are weaving my life together so as to guide me to Heaven.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
We know all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28 (NRSVCE)
So I pray for you (and please pray for me) that we would not sink into the quicksand of despair that’s pulling all of us under these days. Whatever it is we are going through, we will get through it. God will bring good out of the crosses we bear.
In the meantime, we just need a little hope.
©2020 Catholic Anonymous