We were created to love. Whether we are or aren’t aware of it, one of our deepest aspirations is to give ourselves to another. A Gospel parable represents love as growing in our hearts like wheat that, having been sown, sprouts and grows by itself, whether the farmer watches or sleeps. Yet love often fails to grow. Its development is blocked by selfishness, pride, “the cares of the world and the delight in riches,” as Jesus says, or other barriers. Most often, the root of the problem is a lack of hope.
Lacking hope, we don’t really believe God can make us happy, and so we construct our happiness out of covetousness and lust. We don’t wait to find the fullness of our existence in God, and so we shape an artificial identity grounded in pride. Or else—the most common condition among people of good will—we would like to love and be generous in loving and giving ourselves, but we are held back by fears, hesitations, and worries. Lack of trust in what God’s grace can do in our lives, and what we can do with his help, leads to a shrinkage of the heart, a lessening of charity. But, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, trust leads to love.
When we lose fervor, zest, generosity in loving God and neighbor, it is very often because of discouragement or even a sort of secret despair. The remedy is to rekindle our hope, to rediscover a new trust in what God can do for us (no matter how weak and wretched we are) and what we can accomplish with the help of his grace.
- Interior Freedom, p. 104
Hope is a choice that often demands an effort. It is easier to worry, get discouraged, be afraid. Hoping means trusting. When we hope we are not passive: we are acting.
Love is also a decision. Sometimes it comes spontaneously, but very often loving people will mean choosing to love them. Otherwise love would be no more than emotion, even selfishness, and not something that engages our freedom.
- Interior Freedom, p.96
There can be no charity without hope. Love needs space to grow and flourish; it is a marvelous thing, but in a sense, fragile. The special “environment” it needs is made up of hope. If love does not grow or turns cold, very often that’s because it is stifled by cares, fears, worries, or discouragements. Jesus told St. Faustina: “The greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and worry.”
Faith is the root of our cure and our liberation, the start of a life-giving process that heals the death engendered by sin. This is why Jesus lays such stress on faith. “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move.”
- Interior Freedom, p.108
We have been placed on earth to learn to love in the school of Jesus. Learning to love is extremely simple: it means learning to give freely and receive freely. But this simple lesson also is very hard for us learn, because of sin.
- Interior Freedom, p.117
The greatest act of charity one can do for others is to encourage them to live in faith and hope. To praise God is a veritable food for the soul.
- Called to Life, p.8