Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy of having many possessions, but from having encountered a person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them!
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Please do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let hope be stolen! (Pope Francis, Palm Sunday, 2013)
Even though most of us have experienced cool-weather in these early days of Spring [and for some, lots of snow!], Easter calls us all to live the new life reflected in the color and images of Spring.
The women of the first Easter certainly approached the tomb with hearts filled with the darkness of winter. Literally, life had been ripped from them with the death of Jesus. Their hope had been stolen from them.
Modifying the words of Pope Francis, I would say that as Christians we can never stay sad. We cannot live in grief, or in fear, or with the face of discouragement. Our Christian faith is a faith born on Easter.
Over these past four years —- I, like most of you —- have faced ups and downs, challenges, and obstacles — as Pope Francis said, “there are so many [“them”] challenges and problems.” But, I resolved that NOTHING and NO ONE would rob me of joy, no one would take hope away from me.
If Jesus died so that I could live in hope with joy, then I KNEW DEEP WITHIN, that I too must live with joy and in hope. And when my faith was shaken, sometimes it was sheer resolve and determination that kept me moving forward. If Jesus gave me/us hope, then who/what is really strong enough to take it from us?
What are some marks [characteristics] of a person who lives with Easter HOPE?
H – he or she holds on and is persistent even when they do not see what lies ahead. Sometimes we simply have to say, “I do not see how this can work out” or “I am so tired … but I just can’t stop.” This is the courage seen in men and women who are weary after a storm or fire. They have lost so much, maybe everything. They do not know what tomorrow will hold. But SOMEHOW, they know they will be o.k. They hold on, they do not give up. They do not quit. People of hope “hold on” and weather the storm. They wipe away the tears and stand up and put one foot in front of the other.
O – to be hopeful, we must be open to the possibility that what lies ahead will be good for us … and that we will be o.k. Faced with any kind of loss, mixed with numbness, are anger and denial. We want what/who we want! We do not want something/someone else! At these times we can only see our image of what tomorrow should look like.
Sudden, tragic death is never a good. There is no way to rationalize away the pain. But, in faith we must at least be open to believing that life can be good again ….. even without the person we have lost, life itself — and we ourselves — will be o.k … in time and through love.
Closed minds and stony hearts prevent joy and hope from creeping in. People of hope are open to what will be….even if it is not their first choice.
P – without PRAYER, I know of no way for us to be hopeful. Just as a car will not run without gasoline, prayer is our source of renewal and energy. As I look on the face of the crucified Christ, and the Risen Christ …. something happens inside of me. I realize that Jesus is looking at me … Jesus is watching over me … Jesus is walking next to me. He asks me to look to him …. to be present to him.
Our prayer does not have to be a multiplication of words …. there is no right prayer or wrong prayer …. there is but the life-sharing that comes to me from the Risen Christ. People of hope are people of prayer.
E – ENJOY life. To have the hope born of faith, we must keep ourselves rooted in the world around us. Again, I know of no way to have hope if I lock myself in my room with the curtains closed. I cannot find new hope — when the old hope vanishes — if I sit by myself and feel sorry for myself. I have to enjoy the beauty of nature, some time with friends, a good movie —- some deep laughs. If my friends cannot help me to enjoy something, then maybe I need new friends.
Somehow I have to en-joy doing for others. I find renewed hope in bringing hope to others. by helping others to enjoy life.
A hymn, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow,” might well be the theme song for today ….. simply because he lives, I can face tomorrow and what may come.
In a simple style of preaching that inspires me, Pope Francis says clearly: Please, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! That is his challenge and my prayer for today.