We begin our Everyday Meditations from St. John Henry Newman, CO with the virtue of Hope; a virtue often neglected or little understood. Newman sees it as not only rooted in the goodness of God and His creation but also in God's personal desire for each of us to experience the happiness for which He has created us. It is not something abstract but rather unique to each of us as individuals; unique because each soul has its own needs. Therefore, our paths through life are not only radically different from each other and but also seemingly strange. Newman would have us understand that God alone knows what is best for us and it might not be what we think we need or desire. He invites us to unhesitatingly place ourselves into the hands of God who has created us to do something or be something for which no one else has been created. Trust Him, Newman tells us, because although we may see and understand nothing, God knows what He is about.
What allows us to trust so unhesitatingly, Newman states, is the love that God has revealed to us in His Son and through His Spirit. God has expressed His desire and will for us to abide in Him eternally. The exquisite mystery into which we are drawn is that God loves us as He loves His only Son whom He sent to die on our behalf. How constant is God's affection, how willing He is to sacrifice what is most precious to Him in order to redeem us - this despite the fact that we are so obstinately set against Him! We are left to wonder with the psalmist: "What is man, that thou are mindful of him?" God has loved us with an everlasting love and wills that all be saved. What firmer foundation for hope is needed?
Hope in God the Creator
God has created all things for good, all things for their greatest good, everything for its own good. What is the good of one is not the good of another; what makes one man happy would make another unhappy. God has determined, unless I interfere with his plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, he calls me by my name, he knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and he means to give it to me.
God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. Thus God leads us by strange ways. We know he wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind. Left to ourselves we would take the wrong way; we must leave it to him. Let us put ourselves into his hands and not be startled even though he leads us by a strange way, a mirabilis via, as the Church speaks. Let us be sure he will lead us right, that he will bring us to that which is, not indeed what we think best, nor what is best for another, but what is best for us.
Oh my God, I will put myself without reserve into your hands. Wealth or woe, joy or sorrow, friends or bereavement, honor or humiliation, good report or ill report, comfort or discomfort, your presence or the hiding of your countenance: all is good if it comes from you. You are wisdom and love—what can I desire more? You have led me in your counsel, and with glory have you received me. What have I in heaven, and apart from you what want I upon earth? My flesh and my heart fail: but God is the God of my heart, and my portion forever.
God was all complete, all blessed in himself, but it was his will to create a world for his glory. He is almighty and might have done all things himself, but it has been his will to bring about his purposes by the beings he has created. We are all created to his glory; we are created to do his will.
I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created. I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has. Whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.
God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission—I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes, as necessary in my place as an archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, God can raise another, as he could make stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good. I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, though not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.
Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain. He may prolong my life; he may shorten it. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friend. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still he knows what he is about.
O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, you who guide Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to you. I trust you wholly. You are wiser than I—more loving to me than I am to myself. Deign to fulfill your high purposes in me whatever they may be—work in and through me. I am born to serve you, to be yours, to be your instrument. Let me be your blind instrument. I ask not to see. I ask not to know. I ask simply to be used.
Hope Inspired by God’s Love
What mind of man can imagine the love which the eternal Father bears toward the only-begotten Son? It has been from everlasting, and it is infinite. So great is it that divines call the Holy Spirit by the name of that love, as if to express its infinitude and perfection. Yet reflect, O my soul, and bow down before the awesome mystery, that, as the Father loves the Son, so does the Son love you, if you are one of his elect, for he says expressly, “As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9). What mystery in the whole circle of revealed truths is greater than this?
The love which the Son bears toward you, a creature, is like that which the Father bears toward the uncreated Son. O wonderful mystery! This, then, is the history of what else is so strange: that he should have taken my flesh and died for me. The former mystery anticipates the latter; the latter does but fulfill the former. If he did not love me so inexpressibly, he would have not suffered for me. I understand now why he died for me, because he loved me as a father loves his son—not as a human father merely, but as the eternal Father loves the eternal Son. I see now the meaning of that otherwise inexplicable humiliation: he preferred to regain me rather than to create new worlds.
How constant is he in his affection! He has loved us from the time of Adam. He has said from the beginning, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). He did not forsake us in our sin. He did not forsake me. He found me out and regained me. He made point of it; he resolved to restore me, in spite of myself, to that blessedness which I was so obstinately set against. And now what does he ask of me but that, as he has loved me with an everlasting love, so I should love him in such poor measures as I can show. O mystery of mysteries, that the ineffable love of the Father toward the Son should be the love of the Son toward us! Why was it, O Lord? What good thing did you see in me, a sinner? Why were you set on me? “What is man, that thou are mindful of him, and the son of man that thou should visit him” (Ps. 8:4)? This poor flesh of mine, this weak, sinful soul, which has no life except in your grace, you set your love upon. Complete your work, O Lord, and as you have loved me from the beginning, so make me to love you unto the end.
St. John Henry Newman, C.O.