Journey into hope: Let him roll back our stones this Easter
In his Holy Saturday homily for Easter 2020, Pope Francis called the church to hope:
"So, let us not give in to resignation; let us not place a stone before hope. We can and must hope, because God is faithful.He did not abandon us; he visited us and entered into our situations of pain, anguish and death. His light dispelled the darkness of the tomb: Today he wants that light to penetrate even to the darkest corners of our lives."
The pope spoke to a world in the throes of pandemic. As we wend our way through this reality that is still very much with us, I've found myself needing to remove stones of fear and hopelessness about the future, which I've been nibbling like bread in the desert of my heart this Lent.
Pope Francis presents hope not as a honeyed version of optimism but more like a seed, whose fruit begins to sprout in darkness. Reflecting on the women who come to Jesus' tomb in the early hours of that very first Easter, he says, "Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower."
How, in our own hearts, do we invite hope to flower? How, in the midst of the world's pain and my own, do I even turn toward hope? Hope is, I've found, the most profound reality. To talk of suffering without hope is to talk about living without air. We can do both quite easily, but hope, like air, makes life possible.
During a time in which mental health crises have skyrocketed, where hopelessness abounds, perhaps our call in this Easter season is to talk about hope, to reveal to others the seed who plants himself in the hearts of each one of us.
When I think about the women who first saw the stone rolled away and the disciples who followed, a few lines from "O Holy Night" come to mind: "A thrill of hope / The weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks / A new and glorious morn."
I think of the Easter Vigil 2020, celebrated in a living room with my roommate. Though we could not be in church, could not even physically receive Christ, we entered into this livestreamed Mass with makeshift luminaries of birthday candles stuck into egg carton dimples.
When the readings and psalms came to a close, and we saw the church immediately transformed by a sudden flood of brightness, my roommate ran through our house, turning on every light.
It seems that hope reigns in the simple moments of discovery, of celebration, of lighting a single candle to illumine the darkness. It is the answer to the women's question, "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" -- the realization that it has already been rolled back.
In his 2020 Easter Vigil homily Pope Francis offers us a personal invitation, "Dear sister, dear brother, even if in your heart you have buried hope, do not give up: God is greater. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Be strong, for with God nothing is lost!"
Nothing is lost -- not our sorrows, sufferings and fears, not the beauty, blessings and sweetness of this life. All can be used for our good, to draw us nearer to him.
If you find yourself grappling with hope this Easter, join me in praying that Christ will help us remove any remaining stones from the mouth of the tomb, that he will spring forth from the night of the soil, that even if we do not feel hopeful, we come to more deeply know hope himself.
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Lindsey Weishar is a poet and freelance writer from the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois.