Friday, December 3, 2010

Hope without measure in the boundless mercy of God 在天主的慈悲內,望德是無遠弗屆的

Advent is the season of hope and expectation. Hope is a supernatural virtue by which we expect, with a firm confidence, because of God's fidelity to His promises, life everlasting and the means of attaining it.

Hence, the principle object of hope is eternal happiness, and the secondary object of hope is the means of attaining eternal happiness. Glory and grace are the objects of hope.

In God we trust

The mercy of God is the reason for our hope. We obtain both pardon and grace through the mercy of God. Pardon for sins removes the obstacles to our union with God, whereas grace brings about that union.

Hope is founded on the mercy of God, and this mercy has no limit. Hence, St. Thomas teaches us that "man can never love God as much as He should be loved; neither can he believe and hope in Him as much as he ought." The measure of hope is to hope without measure.

St. Therese said, "We can never have too much confidence in the good God Who is so powerful and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for." St. John of the Cross wrote, "The more the soul hopes, the more it attains."

Jesus Himself told St. Faustina, "The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is <0x2013> trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive."

Prayer and desire

St. Augustine defines prayer as an exercise of desire. God knows all our needs before we pray to Him, but He wants us to ask Him, so that by exercising hope in prayer our heart will be more ready to accept His gifts. St. Augustine explained why God does not always answer our prayers immediately: "By delaying, God strengthens our desire; through desire He enlarges our soul, and by expanding it He increases its capacity."

Formal prayers, especially liturgical prayers, help us to form our desire. The texts of these prayers teach us what are the things we ought to hope for.

Suffering and trials

In this earthly life, suffering is unavoidable. The greater the suffering, the greater hope we need to help us through. Pope Benedict in his encyclical letter on hope (Spe Salvi) pointed out that in our many different sufferings and trials we always need the lesser and greater hopes.

In our lesser trials, lesser hopes like a kind visit or a favourable resolution may be sufficient. But in truly great trials, we need the certitude of the true, great hope of eternal life. The martyrs are shining examples of facing great sufferings and trials with such hope.

In times of sufferings and trials, it is important to remember the words of St. Paul: "God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).

Sins against hope

The sins against hope are despair and presumption. Despair is the refusal to trust that God will give necessary help for one's salvation. Presumption is the false hope of achieving salvation by one's own efforts without God's help, or by God's help without one's own efforts.

The remedies for despair are: meditation on the divine goodness of God, confidence in Our Lord Who died for us upon the cross, and devotion to Our Lady.

Presumption is caused by pride and a lack of fear of God. The remedies for presumption are humility, and meditation on the justice and judgments of God.

Let us wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

在天主的慈悲內,望德是無遠弗屆的

將臨期是希望和期待的時刻。望德是超性之德:緣於天主的忠信,我們盼望永生,及獲得永生的幫助。按此,望德的主旨是朝向永福之光榮,之後是助人穩赴永福之聖寵。

信賴天主

天主的慈悲引發我們的望德,讓我們獲得天主的恕宥,除去與天主結合的障礙,並藉祂的聖寵,使我們與祂合而為一。

望德建基於天主的無限慈悲,是無遠弗屆的。誠如聖師多瑪斯說:「我們對天主的愛,永不能達到祂應被愛的程度,我們也永不能達到信仰和希望天主應有的程度。」望德中的仰望,應該是無止境的。

聖女小德蘭說:「對天主美善的信心永不會過多,因為祂是全能全善的。仰望與所得是成正比。」聖十字若望寫道:「靈魂越仰望,就越有所成。」

耶穌對聖傅天娜說:「唯一汲取我慈悲聖寵的途徑,就是信賴。越信賴就越得償。」

祈禱與渴求

聖奧斯定指出,祈禱是實踐期望。雖然天主在我們祈求之前,早已洞悉我們所需,但祂仍要我們在望德中作出祈求,讓我們的心靈,更善備接受天主的恩賜。聖奧斯定解釋為何天主並不常對我們的祈求作出即時的應允,他說:「天主欲借延遲來增加我們的渴求,藉以擴展我們的心靈,增加心靈的容量。」

既定的祈禱經文 ——— 特別是禮儀內的禱文,幫助我們正確地塑造渴求。禱文指導我們應渴求些什麼。

痛苦與試探

俗世的生命避免不了痛苦;痛苦越大,所需的希望也越大。教宗本篤十六世在其有關望德的通諭中,指出在不同的痛苦與試探中,我們需要大大小小的希望。小試探需要較小的希望已足夠,但面對大試探,我們需要對永生存有堅定不移的真希望,才能應付 ——— 殉道聖人正是懷有這真希望的光輝實例。

經歷痛苦與試探時,緊記聖保祿宗徒致格林多人前書的話(10:13):「天主是忠信的,祂決不許你們受那超過你們能力的試探,天主如加給人試探,也必開一條出路,叫你們能夠承擔。」

違反望德的罪

違反望德的罪是絕望和妄望。絕望是拒絕相信天主會賜予人獲得永生的所需;妄望是認為得救單憑一己之力,並非來自天主的助佑;又或者認為得救單憑天主之力,自己卻無需努力。

避免絕望,要多默想天主的美善、信賴為我們受死的主基督,和多恭敬聖母。

驕傲和缺乏敬畏天主的心,會導致妄望。謙遜和默想天主的公義及審判,則可棄絕妄望。

讓我們以喜悅的望德,期待救主耶穌基督的蒞臨。