Traces N.9, October 2008

"Got Hope?"

Who of us hasn’t seen the bumper sticker by Senator Obama’s campaign with the title of this editorial? It appeals to something very deep in the human person. Who can live without hope? Indeed, Fr. Giussani notes in the Religious Sense that, “by the very fact that [one] lives five minutes, he affirms the existence of a ‘something’ which deep down makes those five minutes worthwhile.” When we lose hope, we become paralyzed.
And so we should ask: in what can we hope? What can justify our movement, our action, our dedication? In this moment in our history, many have placed a great deal of hope in political change. Many have placed hope in financial markets. Many have placed hope in preemptive warfare. Many have placed hope in the spread of democracy. One common fact underlies these and countless other hopes: they all really represent a hope in ourselves, a hope in people.
Here–we must note–we find a problem. Nothing is so self-evident as the fact that for all of his intelligence, strength, creativity, goodwill, virtue, dedication, and honor, not one human being can solve the problems of his life. Hoping in people sets one up for great disappointment.
We find it providential that at a time when we find “Got Hope?” bumper stickers all over our nation, the latest publication in English by Monsignor Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way?, should deal with exactly the same theme.In this work he helps us understand the true nature of hope: “If faith is to recognize a Presence that is certain, hope is to recognize with certainty a future that is born of this faith; faith is to recognize a Presence with certainty; from this certainty, certainty for the future is born” (Is it Possible to Live this Way? An unusual approach to Christian existence, Vol. 2, Hope–McGill-Queen’s University Press, page 8).
At such an important time in our history, we cannot shy away from proclaiming the only true hope: the encounter with Jesus Christ.
And this proclamation does not entail a flight from the world of politics, economics, culture, or justice–in other words, this proclamation does not entail a flight from the world. On the contrary, the hope afforded by the encounter with Christ is that which has most radically transformed life on this earth. As Pope Benedict recently reminded great figures from the world of culture in France, Christian monasticism gave rise to our civilization, without any pretense of a cultural project. We know that hospitals, orphanages, the concept of human rights, science, and polyphonic music all have their roots in that life built on the hope given by the encounter with Jesus Christ.
For this reason, the question of the solidity of that faith that gives hope has great urgency. Our world desperately needs people whose hope does not rest on other people or upon themselves, in order that such hope be not betrayed. Our world needs people whose hope rests upon one Person, Jesus of Nazareth, with whom a truly human civilization may–again–be built.