Moral theology might sound like a dry topic—not what most of us would choose as exciting reading. Yet I recommend Catholic Moral Tradition, by Monsignor David Bohr. The riches of God’s love break through, page after page.
This morning I was particularly struck by Bohr’s discussion of hope as a motivating force in our discipleship. As background, let’s quickly review the seven Christian virtues:
- Cardinal virtues (“cardinal” in the sense of basic or foundational): prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance
- Theological virtues (“theological” in the sense of divinely prompted, or infused, in us): faith, hope, and love
Most of us know St. Paul’s soaring chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13). It concludes, “So faith, hope, [and] love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Notes on the chapter explain love is given preeminence because, unless tongues, prophecy, faith or even self-sacrifice are motivated by love, they are of little value. Moreover, beyond time—”when faith has yielded to sight, and hope to possession” of our eternal inheritance in Christ—love will remain.
Presently, however, we live within time. Hope is essential. “Hope is faith and love on a journey,” writes Msgr. Bohr, quoting William Lynch, SJ.¹ Msgr. Bohr then continues:
Hope . . . can only be made known to us through symbols, images, and parables. Hope . . . appeals to our imaginations rather than to our intellects. For the imagination . . . is the gift that envisions what cannot yet be seen, the gift that proposes to itself that the boundaries of the possible are wider than they seem.²
The boundaries of the possible are wider than they seem! Wider than our failures. Wider than the rancor of the 2012 presidential campaign. Wider, even, than the whole world’s problems. Imagine that! Hope is the “interior dynamism that exudes confidence, perseverance, peace, joy, and serenity in the midst of life’s storms . . . anchored in God’s forgiving and reconciling love manifested in Christ.”³
¹ William F. Lynch, Images of Hope (New York and Toronto: A Mentor-Omega Book, 1965), page 27.
² Bohr, Catholic Moral Tradition, p. 129.