The other day I got an email from the kind folks at the Boston College School of Theology & Ministry telling me that I wasn't registered for any classes and wondering whether I was still a student there. You see, I've never been able to figure out how to use the registration software, so at the beginning of these past two semesters I've gone to another nice lady in the school office (or as it seems to be called, the 'Service Center') and had her register me. But in order to get my scholarship money I have to be registered, so the person with whom I was emailing kindly enabled me in my incompetence and registered me from something called "TM 980," which is what you're in when you aren't in any actual courses anymore.
Following this email conversation I thought that the very fact of it perhaps meant I no longer had an 'F' in the Medieval Trinitarian theology seminar from last semester. And behold, when I checked my BC identity online, the F had been changed to a passing grade. So my grade in the course journeyed from an 'I' for incomplete at the end of the semester to an 'F' for 'administrative failure' on August 1 and then finally to a passing grade.
Of course in my vanity I enjoyed having an F in the course, at least for a little while, and even though it wasn't really an F. I had never had an F before. A couple of Ds along the way, but no F until now.
I got to reflecting on this as a metaphor for the spiritual life. We start out with the incomplete; without God there is something missing. Then, having let ourselves be found by God, we discover ourselves as a failure, unable to live up to the desire this new Presence works in our souls. And we live in the hope and prayer that this God who has come into our life is gently renovating our humanity so that in him we will become a passable human being. Perhaps with all of our resistances and hardness of heart we won't succeed in letting God make us into saints in this life, but in his mercy God has provided the searing joy of Purgatory as a mercy for those who need to continue this process after the end of earthly life. Either way, in the humanity of Christ our blessed incompleteness is offered salvation from the failing mess we tend to make of it, and that's what is meant by Christian hope.