In the spiritual life, you'll never do great things for God unless you have your eye on the long term goal - indescribable joy in his presence forever. The ecstasy of gazing upon Him whose beauty eternally awes the hosts of heaven, the exhilarating company of friends, family, and fascinating people from all ages-purified, glorified, finished masterpieces of divine love-this is what "the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6) will usher in, for those who are ready.
Confidence in God's Promise
The virtue of hope is the eager, energizing expectation of this glorious inheritance. And it's also the confidence that He who began the work of salvation in us will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6).
Some think Christians live in fearful insecurity, perpetually worrying they may not make the grade. Calvinist Christians, on other hand, believe that once people accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are saved, period. God is faithful, they reason, and never reneges on his promises. So once saved, always saved.
So who is right? There is truth on both sides. God's promise is sure. He gives us grace to accept Christ and salvation. But his grace never comes in a way that short-circuits our freedom.
Assurance & Freedom
In other words, God is a lover, not a rapist. He never overpowers us and carries us away against our will. The possibility always remains that we will walk away, as did the
Prodigal Son. Fortunately the Prodigal came to his senses and returned. But note that the Father did not send out a posse. The wayward son returned of his own accord. The story could have ended otherwise.
So is there an "all Christian version" of "blessed assurance"? Yes. We call it hope. We have confidence that God will give us the grace to persevere, and even better, to grow stronger in his love right up to the "day of Christ Jesus."
Hope as ardent Desire
But hope is, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, a virtue not principally of the mind that believes in God's faithfulness, but of the will that longs for heaven with a desire that propels it forward to ever greater spiritual growth.
One opposite of hope is despair, failure to believe that God's mercies are never exhausted. But hope has other opposites as well. Like sloth, or spiritual laziness. When faced with the prospect of life forever with God, sloth yawns and says "BOR-ing." Sound familiar?
Or how about presumption? Hope is humble confidence that God won't give up on me. Presumption is the arrogant expectation that God owes me mercy, regardless how neglectful I am of the ordinary means of grace which he offers us, like Mass, prayer, and Confession.
Hope is a spiritual muscle. But like all muscles, it must be exercise just to survive. Unused muscles atrophy. Use it or lose it.
That's why each year the Church gives us a season of Hope, which we called Advent. Though our society has made it a season of indulgence, it is meant to be a season of training. It's time to blow on the spark of spiritual desire within us till it bursts into flame. Christmas lights are nice, but it is we who are supposed to be the light of the world.