Hope and the Common Good

"Hope-filled actions place us at the service of others for the common good." - Austen Ivereigh in "First Belong to God: On Retreat with Pope Francis" (book cover pictured next to quote)

There is a scene in the movie The Shawshank Redemption in which the two main characters, both prisoners in the 1950s, debate about hope. One says that hope is the one thing no one can take away, so we don’t forget the goodness of life. The other says “hope is a dangerous thing” that can eat a man alive. So, which is it? Perhaps that depends on what it feels like to experience the grace of hope and who benefits from the resulting action.

The experience of hope is a movement in the heart, not a thought in the head. Its foundation is not on odds or luck, as when one buys a lottery ticket, but on our capacity to collaborate with God in love. Hope is not something we generate, but, like all graces, a gift given to us. And, most importantly, Christian hope is “expressed in concrete actions,” as Austen Ivereigh writes. He explains in First Belong to God: On Retreat with Pope Francis that, “Hope-filled actions place us at the service of others for the common good.” Hope without action is just a head game.

Over the past two years, through my cancer and bone-marrow transplant, I have been dancing with and around hope. When I dance around it, I am afraid to embrace it, like a temptation. I fear I will be setting myself up for failure yet again. In those times, I feel alone and experience despair. When we are in our dark places in life, hope can feel dangerous.

But when I have asked for and embraced the grace of hope, though I may still be in a dark place, I know I am not alone. My thoughts are on the world beyond me, regardless of living or dying. If I am able to live, I am hopeful for the times I get to spend and actions I get to do for and with others. Some days, the most hope-filled action I can take is to get up in the morning, not to do something for myself, but for another. If my body reaches its limits, my hope is rooted in the gift offered in the Resurrection, not just for me, but for all of us.

Being invited by God to serve another person or the common good, hoping to pay forward the love we feel in our own unique way and circumstance, is the call of every Christian. Ivereigh goes on to say, “To love the world is patiently to serve it, as Jesus did, and as we are called to do: as this disciple, in this time and in this place, within this Church.” Why bother acting if there were no hope of advancing the Kingdom of God? Perhaps, then, the most dangerous aspect of hope is having none.

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Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Lisa so much for your inspiration today. I got the gift of another day from God! Praise Him! I will be pondering Hope and what it means for some time to come but always with an eye on the empty tomb in the background. Healing prayers for you and your family.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement to serve others even in the midst of our own struggles and pains. God bless and heal you!

  3. This is Barb from the Cogan House in South Dakota. This was beautifully written and cause to ponder. Blessings to you as you grow through your cancer…

  4. Beautifully stated. Your blog has touched my heart. Thank you for your words, thoughts and insight. Blessings…..

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