Only God Is Man's True Hope, Says Pontiff

Notes That Universe Is Ruled by a Person

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By Carrie Gress

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2007 ( Zenit.org).- Man's true hope, firm in the face of all disappointments, can only be God, and that it is him, and not the laws of matter that rule the universe, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this in his encyclical "Spe Salvi" (Saved in Hope), released today. The title refers to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, 8:24: "For in hope we were saved."

"Day by day," the Holy Father explained, "man experiences many greater or lesser hopes, different in kind according to the different periods of his life. Sometimes one of these hopes may appear to be totally satisfying without any need for other hopes.

"When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further."

Redemption

To understand hope, the Pontiff said, one must start with an understanding of Christian salvation. Redemption "is not simply a given."

He continued: "Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: The present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads toward a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey."

Benedict XVI said that "man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world. When someone has the experience of a great love in his life, this is a moment of 'redemption' which gives a new meaning to his life. But soon he will also realize that the love bestowed upon him cannot by itself resolve the question of his life. It is a love that remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love."

The Pope added: "If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then -- only then -- is man 'redeemed,' whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances.

"It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love -- a Person.

"And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free."

"Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God -- God who has loved us and who continues to love us 'to the end,' until all 'is accomplished,'" emphasized the Pontiff.

True life

"Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves," said Benedict XVI. "It is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is life itself and love itself, then we are in life. Then we 'live.'

"Our relationship with God is established through communion with Jesus -- we cannot achieve it alone or from our own resources alone."

"The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life," said the Pontiff. "We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else.

"This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope.

"His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect."

"His love," added the Holy Father, "is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: A life that is 'truly' life."