Human Despair and Easter Hope

There is a lot of sacrifice happening during this Lent, as it does during any Lent. Children are giving up candy and looking forward to Easter Sunday to find that basket full of chocolate. Office workers have put aside their double shot of espresso in their Starbucks coffee, while counting the days to Easter Monday when they will once again walk into work with their Venti-sized coffee topped with whipped cream. We spend 40 days getting in touch with one side of ourselves in the hopes of discovering a new self. We sacrifice one piece of our reality in the hope that we may find a more fulfilling reality at the end of the journey. We detach ourselves from something through these sacrifices in the hope we will become attached to God. 

young couple
How many painful stories have we heard of a young couple so wanting a child but unable to conceive? How do we console a couple on their most recent miscarriage? We encourage them to have a faith “Where valleys will be filled in, Where mountains will be made low”. Thinkstock photo

The Paschal Mystery is the foundation of that hope of a new reality to come. It is the “advent” part of Lent, the waiting for something better. Imagine going through life with no hope that tomorrow might be better or that what is now is as good as it gets. Living with no hope for what might be would stop us all in our tracks, and we would not move forward. 

We hear people’s stories of hope as they anticipate what might be or what could be. I wonder how many inventions that we take for granted today came from a simple voicing of an ideal, a hope or a wishful thought. I wonder whether Mr. A. G. Bell wished he could talk to his friend who moved to another state and that this hope turned into a reality with his invention. There are a lot of things for which to hope. If we don’t dream of being there or hoping to get there, we never will. 

We can scan the Scriptures and see the countless moments of a new hope for tomorrow. 

We hear people’s sins as they hope for forgiveness. We hear people’s stories of illness as they hope for healing. We hear stories of “what is happening in people’s lives” and we impart a hope “to where God wills them to be.” Lent is our time for the wishful thinking, hoping against hope that the Good Friday of our daily lives will unfold into an Easter. Good Friday was not the first day of despair that humanity had experienced, and Easter Sunday is certainly not the last time that hope was given to us by our God. The transformation that occurred on the cross continues to occur even now. We pray for the transformation, we do a small Lenten sacrifice. We pray and sacrifice to go from one point to another. We can reflect on the Ten Commandments, and a flood of the human condition comes to mind. We sacrifice our attachment to our vices to start living virtuously. We hear of people’s jealousy and the power it has in their lives to make them want more or want that which is not theirs to have. We hear of people resorting to stealing as they believe they are entitled to more than what they have been given. The disappointment in life situations propels some to forego their values for something different as they break their marriage bond. How do we move beyond the human condition to find fidelity again, to be content with what we have? 

How do we pray and sacrifice to go

From Bewilderment to Understanding

From Rejection to Acceptance

From Hurt to Healing

especially when you are on the receiving end of the hurt, the rejection or the bewilderment due to someone’s actions against you? How do you transform that “cross” moment into an “Easter” moment?

invention
How many inventions that we take for granted today came from a wishful thought? Thinkstock photo

Our lives are like roller coasters at times as we journey through the days, the years, the decades. The feelings above conjure up many of life’s ups and downs whereby each of us could fill in the storyline. How many painful stories have we heard of a young couple so wanting a child but unable to conceive? How do we console a couple on their most recent miscarriage? How do we walk with someone when they have just lost their job due to the economy and they feel so powerless and so humiliated that they can barely tell their children? What words can be shared to encourage them to wait, to believe that there is some hope that something will occur. As they are looking for a job, they are equally looking for God in these moments. They have heard all their lives while going to church that this God will turn things around. We encourage them to have such a faith

Where valleys will be filled in

Where mountains will be made low

Where winding roads are made straight

Where the poor are given glad tidings

Where captives are granted liberty

Where the blind recover their sight. 

These moments are much easier to sing about or hear about when we are on the “right-hand side,” or the “glad tidings” side. When we are on the “valley” or “winding road” side, it is not easy to see God. This side holds people captive until they are able to see some hope, some grace, some change

From Hatred to Love

From Injury to Pardon

From Doubt to Faith

From Despair to Hope

From Sadness to Joy.

These words ascribed to St Francis are ingrained on our lips, and we need to move them from our lips to our hearts and souls. There is so much hurt and pain in the world. Every person has a memory of being emotionally injured, a moment when an intense feeling of hatred against a person or a situation became all-consuming. These moments toss us into a wave of despair as we doubt there is any hope for humanity. How is joy ever recaptured, how can the clock ever be turned back to a more tranquil time? How is lost innocence ever regained? The woman found the coin, the shepherd his lost sheep, the father found his prodigal son; can we find lost innocence, lost faith, lost joy, lost faith? 

Though these moments of war and extreme violence are thankfully not daily occurrences, they are frequent enough to make us pause. They are soon put on the back burner as we deal with the more mundane moments of life that keep occurring and keep needing us to hope against hope. Every week most of us hear about family situations that put life in perspective, at least for us that day. One day a person is assumed to be healthy; the next day brings a life-changing diagnosis. One day a family seems like the ideal family; the next day it is broken. How do people journey through these moments as they go

From Sickness to Health

From Addiction to Sobriety

From Estrangement to Relationship? 

People are struggling every day to keep themselves whole, holy and healthy in mind, spirit and body. 

The Paschal Mystery at times seems more about the mystery than it does about the transformation into grace and light and peace that it truly is. It is so easy not to journey into the mystery. Our Feelings keep us stuck in Revenge and not turning the other cheek 

Selfishess and choosing not to be aware of neighbor 

Bitterness and choosing not to be compassionate 

Resentment for it is easier than being kind  

Betrayal and not risking to trust again 

Indifference and not choosing to care 

Anger and choosing not to forgive. 

Our Faith tells us to move 

From Sin to Grace 

From Death to Life 

From the Cross to Resurrection. 

This is why, during Lent, we pray a little more and forego the candy, the extra shot of espresso in the coffee. Through these simple sacrifices, we hope to discover more about our God and ourselves. We realize that if our simple sacrifice has purpose and meaning, Christ’s sacrifice must have the ultimate meaning, for an eternal purpose. Two thousand years ago, His sacrifice transformed a confused band of fisherman and tax collectors into passionate people of faith who faced all odds, even death. The same power of the Cross and Resurrection is still with us because our God, who is Emmanuel, is with us today. TP 

FATHER CARRION is pastor of Holy Cross, Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Baltimore, Md., and is director of the Deacon Formation Program for the Archdiocese. pcarrion@archbalt.org