Message: During this Easter season I invite you to join me in a journey to hope.
Happy Easter! (smile) As we heard in the Sequence, "Yes, Christ my hope is risen!"
Easter comes after six weeks of preparation called Lent. During Lent I gave a series of homilies on prayer and spiritual combat. Last week we saw the purpose or goal of prayer: Union with Jesus. St. Paul writes, "If we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection." By his death and resurrection, Jesus gives us hope of life with him now and in eternity. Yes, Christ my hope is risen!
That's what I want to speak to you about today - and during the Easter season: hope. I was motivated to do this by a man named Rick Warren. You may have heard of him. He wrote the best selling non-fiction book in American history: "The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?" It has sold over sixty million copies and has been translated into more languages than other book - except the Bible. Rick Warren seemed to be on top of the world, but last year he faced a terrible tragedy, the worst thing that can happen to any parent - his child committed suicide.
Pastor Rick Warren withdrew into prayer, searching the Bible and Christian classics for some answer. He emerged with insights that I hope to share with you during the coming weeks. Pastor Warren's wife expressed it this way, "We are devastated, but not destroyed."
For sure, no one can give a simple solution to life's puzzle. The Bible itself has books like Job and Ecclesiastes. They ask questions about suffering and the apparent absurdity of human existence. On the cross, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" He experienced the depths of desolation. But precisely because of that Jesus can offer hope.
I want to explore that hope with you during these weeks of Easter. What is the reason for our hope? Pope Benedict said that the crisis of faith is really a crisis of hope.* Let me say that again: the crisis of faith is essentially a crisis of hope. Of course, we all have certain hopes: we want financial security, health, a "soul mate", a better world for our children. Those are good dreams, but what is our ultimate hope? What will give meaning and purpose to everything we do?
I'd like to ask you to make a journey with me: a journey to hope. It's not an easy journey. A person might be reluctant to even get started. We see that in the Easter Gospel. Two disciples come to the empty tomb. One believes, but the other does not. Peter does not believe. When you think about it, he may not be anxious to meet Jesus again. He had betrayed Jesus, denied that he even knew the man. Peter had heard Jesus speak about rising from the dead, but what would he do if it really happened? What would Peter say to Jesus? And more important, what would Jesus say to Peter?
Peter and the other disciples were probably not too excited about the prospect of seeing Jesus. The Bible says they were afraid. Except for John, they all had abandoned Jesus. They could expect judgment and anger, but that's not what happened.
As we shall see next Sunday, what they receive from Jesus is not condemnation, but mercy. Mercy. Divine Mercy - that will be the first step in our journey to hope.** I ask you to take that step with me.
We are not alone. Others have taken the journey to hope. They are called saints. Next Sunday we will have two new saints - both are successors of Peter: St. John the Twenty-Third and St. John Paul the Second. A story from the life of St. John Paul will illustrate mercy. It happened during one of the darkest moments in human history. The story will amaze you. Don't miss it.
During this Easter season I invite you to join me in a journey to hope. This hope is forecast in our Easter Psalm:
*Here is the full context of Pope Benedict's quote:
How could the idea have developed that Jesus's message is narrowly individualistic and aimed only at each person singly? How did we arrive at this interpretation of the "salvation of the soul" as a flight from responsibility for the whole, and how did we come to conceive the Christian project as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others? In order to find an answer to this we must take a look at the foundations of the modern age. These appear with particular clarity in the thought of Francis Bacon. That a new era emerged-through the discovery of America and the new technical achievements that had made this development possible-is undeniable. But what is the basis of this new era? It is the new correlation of experiment and method that enables man to arrive at an interpretation of nature in conformity with its laws and thus finally to achieve "the triumph of art over nature" (victoria cursus artis super naturam). The novelty-according to Bacon's vision-lies in a new correlation between science and praxis. This is also given a theological application: the new correlation between science and praxis would mean that the dominion over creation -given to man by God and lost through original sin-would be reestablished.**In an interview with Raymond Arroyo, Rick Warren tells about how he and his wife have learned to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy!
Anyone who reads and reflects on these statements attentively will recognize that a disturbing step has been taken: up to that time, the recovery of what man had lost through the expulsion from Paradise was expected from faith in Jesus Christ: herein lay "redemption". Now, this "redemption", the restoration of the lost "Paradise" is no longer expected from faith, but from the newly discovered link between science and praxis. It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level-that of purely private and other-worldly affairs-and at the same time it becomes somehow irrelevant for the world. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith which is essentially a crisis of Christian hope.
From Archives (Easter Sunday Homilies):
Easter Vigil Homily 1998: "At the entrance was something like a small swimming pool with three steps leading down one side and three steps leading up the other. At the Easter vigil they were led into the pool. The priest asked..."
The Meaning of the Resurrection: "Forgiveness is the one new thing that has entered the world. Without forgiveness human history is bleak. Frederick Nietzsche the philosopher who stated 'God is dead,' thought the driving force of history is resentment..."
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (based on daily Mass readings)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (Current St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru