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  • First Congregational Church Of Rowley

Hope: An Act of Will

Today's Encouraging Word and Inspirational Message is brought to you by Penny Hurley, on behalf of the Compassionate Care Network.

Scripture: "Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures.”

Romans 15:4

Music: "Praise You In This Storm" Natalie Grant

Message: Hope: An Act of Will

I will never cease to be amazed at the relevance and wisdom expressed by long ago philosophers and theologians - in this case by 13th century Dominican friar and priest, Thomas Aquinas. He was greatly influenced by Aristotle. I happened upon this writing and was captivated at the realistic but optimistic yet balanced thinking.

"Is hope more realistic than despair? Aquinas thinks so"

"...Aquinas said that ethics must also incorporate the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. These virtues, Aquinas argued, come to us not from reason but from grace. They are gifts from God that serve to direct people toward their salvation. According to the theologian, they make it possible for human beings to achieve a dimension of both happiness and excellence that they cannot achieve otherwise...

...Aristotle defined virtue as “a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.” So, for example, Aristotle said that courage is found between recklessness – an excess of courage – on the one hand and cowardice, its deficiency, on the other.

...Deciding how to be courageous is never simple and depends dramatically on circumstances, but courage will always be found between these extremes. Aquinas follows this concept of virtue, and he argues that the theological virtue of hope fits the pattern. According to him, it lies between two vices: Presumption is the excess of hope, while despair is its deficiency.

By Aquinas’ definition, hope is grounded in some desired future that is both possible to achieve but also very difficult. Hope is therefore more realistic than either vice.

Presumption denies the difficulty of the goal, but also the responsibility of the individual in making it happen, while despair denies the fact that the goal, despite its arduousness, is yet possible. Hope is the mean because it requires people to be both clear and conscientious about what they are up against, and what they are striving to achieve.

In this understanding, hope is much more than mere optimism. Hope is an act of will. One chooses to be hopeful. Hope insists that though the task is difficult, even daunting, change remains possible. It therefore sustains all who take up the work that must be done.

If this act of will seems beyond your ability right now, consider this. Aquinas said that “we hope chiefly in our friends.” It is easier to be hopeful when others love us, support us, and share our hopes. This is why, he says, Christians need a community of fellow believers..."

Excerpts from "What 13th century Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas can teach us about hope in times of despair"

"Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand."

Thomas Aquinas

Pics: Penny Hurley

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