Faith, hope, and love are not qualities that we can generate within ourselves like good habits, but are described by Catholic theologians as “infused virtues”. They are gifts of the Spirit and represent the heart of the Christian experience. The apostle Paul often stressed the supernatural nature of this triad of virtues:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13). [Note that “belief” and “faith” are the same word in Greek]
Paul’s prayer for the Church in Rome reflects not only the spiritual dimension of these virtues, but the special relationship between faith and hope. The use of the conjunction “so that”, denoting purpose, reveals the secret to abounding in hope through the power of the Spirit; it is motivated by the joy that is produced when one believes in the gospel of Christ. Faith is the foundation of the triad:
But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6).
Recall that life for Christians in the first century was made very difficult by both the Jews and the Roman Empire. Hope in the future reality of our presence in heaven with God generated endurance in those difficult times:
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (Romans 8:22-25).
While hope generates endurance, it also perpetuates love. St. Paul explains how the relationship between hope and love is causal:
We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3-4).
The love for their Christian brethren in Colossae was motivated by hope. An example of this is shared by the author of the book of Hebrews:
Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession (Hebrews 10:32-34).
The Hebrew Christians were so focused on their hope in heaven that they accepted the theft of their property by the empire “joyfully” as they aided their brother Christians in prison. Paul explains how hope is the secret to enduring harsh circumstances:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4).
Faith generates spiritual joy which causes us to abound in hope. As we hope in that which is eternal we grow in love and are motivated to engage in acts of love and personal sacrifice, which glorifies God.