CHRIST IS RISEN!
BROTHERS and sisters, how can we not feel hope on this glorious day? And yet, I know in reality, many of you are uneasy as we read headlines of the beating drums of war, of economic collapse, and growing intolerance for the Church’s moral positions. And many are tired and turned off by the constant stream of profanity, lewdness and violence that fills our airwaves and internet.
It is precisely at the end of the second millennium that immense, threatening clouds converge on the horizon of all humanity and darkness descends upon human souls. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, from a speech (translated from Italian), December, 1983; www.vatican.va
That is our reality. And I can write “be not afraid” over and over again, and yet many remain anxious and worried about many things.
First, we have to realize authentic hope is always conceived in the womb of truth, otherwise, it risks being false hope. Second, hope is so much more than simply “positive words.” In fact, the words are merely invitations. Christ’s three year ministry was one of invitation, but the actual hope was conceived on the Cross. It was then incubated and birthed in the Tomb. This, dear friends, is the path of authentic hope for you and I in these times…
Let me say, simply, that hope comes from a living and intense relationship with Hope Himself: Jesus Christ. Not just knowing about Him, but knowing Him.
The first of all the commandments… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength… (Mark 12:29-30)
So many Catholics today live without hope because their relationship with God is almost non-existent. Why?
…prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father… —Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), n.2565
Yes, many people today, and perhaps some of my readers, are chasing after prophecies of the future, darting about the internet for the “latest”, busy, busy, busy… but never enough time to pray. Hope springs from a personal encounter with Jesus; lasting hope springs from an ongoing encounter with God through a life lived for Him, and Him alone.
When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well… In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Spe Salvi (Saved In Hope), n. 33, 34
Here, we see that hope is tied, not only to prayer, but to a willingness to be vessels of hope:
…the second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:31)
To the degree that we hold back from either of these commandments, that we keep a part of ourselves out of His reach and the reach of our neighbour, is the degree to which we begin to lose hope. Everytime we sin, we lose a little hope because we have ceased following Him who is Hope itself.
This is what I mean when I say that true hope is conceived on the Cross and born in the tomb. Obedience, the surrender of our will to God’s will, means a dying to self. But we must stop seeing this surrender of self as a loss, and begin to see it with the eyes of faith!
If water is to become hot, then cold must die out of it. If wood is to be made fire, then the nature of wood must die. The life we seek cannot be in us, it cannot become our very selves, we cannot be itself, unless we gain it by first ceasing to be what we are; we acquire this life through death. —Fr. John Tauler (1361), German Dominican priest and theologian; from the Sermons and Conferences of John Tauler
The “hope” we seek cannot live in us except by following Christ’s pattern of dying to self.
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus… he emptied himself… becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him… (Phil 2:5-9)
Emptied of self, the old self, so that the new self, the true self, may live. In other words, we live by God’s will, not our own, so that His life may dwell in us and become our life. We see this pattern in Mary as well: she empties herself in her “fiat”, and in exchange, Christ is conceived in her.
Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? …I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you! (2 Cor 13:5; Gal 4:19)
We must stop watering down these words and realize that God is calling us to a radical revolution of our lives. He is not interested in saving us a little, sanctifying us a bit, transforming us to a degree. His desire is to utterly raise us into the very Image in which we were created.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)
We are so sad when we are asked to pray, or fast, to mortify or live moderately. It is because we fail to see the interior and hidden joy and hope that only comes to those who enter the journey. But my friends, we are now living in extraordinary times where we must be ready to give much, much more.
Those who challenge this new paganism are faced with a difficult option. Either they conform to this philosophy or they are faced with the prospect of martyrdom. —Fr. John Hardon (1914-2000), How to Be a Loyal Catholic Today? By Being Loyal to the Bishop of Rome; www.therealpresence.org
No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. —The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family, Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
THE REALM OF FAITH
Ah! You see, these words may frighten some. But’s that’s because they do not realize the divine exchange that will happen. Your faith, if lived out intensely and personally with God through prayer and obedience, will acquire a hope that no man can take, no persecutor can suffocate, no war can diminish, no suffering annihilate, no trial wither. This is the secondary message of Easter: the complete giving of ourselves to God by entering into the night of faith, the tomb of complete abandonment to Him, produces in us all the fruits of the Resurrection. All of them.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens… (Ephesians 1:3)
This is no time to hold back any longer, to keep a part of yourself to yourself. Give everything to God, no matter the cost. And the more it costs, the more powerful the grace, reward, and resurrection of Jesus in your life in whose image you are being renewed.
For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin… Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:5-6, 11)
Be prepared to put your life on the line in order to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Message to the Young People of the World, World Youth Day, 2008
I truly believe Our Lady has been coming to us all these years to help us to be emptied in these times so that we may be filled—filled with the Spirit of God that we may become living flames of love—living flames of hope in a world that has become so dark.
…the Holy Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives. With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely otherworldly in their outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. —St. Cyril of Alexandria, Magnificat, April, 2013, p. 34
Our Mother is demanding… fasting, prayer, conversion, etc. But that is because she knows it will produce in us Jesus: it will produce in us authentic hope.
We cannot hide the fact that many threatening clouds are gathering on the horizon. We must not, however, lose heart, rather we must keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Catholic News Agency, January 15th, 2009
Please do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let hope be stolen! The hope that Jesus gives us. —POPE FRANCIS, Palm Sunday homily, March 24th, 2013; www.vatican.va
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