At his first Easter Vigil Mass as the Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, . . . to remember the road we have traveled—this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future” (Easter Vigil Homily, March 30, 2013).
Easter is a time of hope, new life. On this day, we acknowledge that Jesus is not in the tomb but He is journeying along side us. He is risen and resides within our hearts, the core of our being.
It is a time to reflect upon our past and all the times God’s hands were present, picking us up when we fell, giving us strength to endure, filling our hearts with joy, giving us peace in a difficult moment. When we reflect upon what He has done in our past journey, we must look for a new hope, a new journey before us, that is full of His love, and His peace.
Today we celebrate that He lives within us as “our hearts [burn within us]”, Luke 24:32. He gives us His peace and no one can take that from us unless we choose to give it to them. This peace and new life within us is the result of pain and suffering, death on a cross. It is a result of a greater love that burns within us each day. So today as you celebrate the risen Lord, celebrate hope for a new journey guided by Christ as He is in you.
What is love? Is it always happy or is it sometimes sad? Yesterday, I witnessed several acts of love. I heard the passion of our Lord and witnessed a cross about the size of the “True Cross” process into our church and then I watched hundreds of people, in reverence of our Lord and His love for us, kneel down to kiss this cross. This was a demonstration of love from our community to our Lord for His sacrifice and His sacrifice was an act of His love for us. It is a great example of mutual sacrifice of oneself for another.
So I think the answer is that love is not always happy. Many years ago, I heard this very thing at a counselling session with my ex-husband. My ex proceeded to tell the counsellor that God is love and He did not want us to not be happy. The counsellor looked at him and said “Jesus died on the cross that was love, but it wasn’t happy”. You see that very act is a model for us that love is not about our happiness but about what we do for others, about our actions. That is what Jesus demonstrated for us when He died for us. He showed us what love is, sacrificing oneself for another. This is the love we should each practice daily with everyone we encounter, especially our family.
Yesterday, I came across a note my daughter wrote several years ago. She called it “Mom Love”. In her note she pronounced how much she loved me. She also mentions the ways that I show love to her by helping her through difficult times and encouraging her. It’s the small acts of kindness that we show one another that reveals our love to one another. It’s not our own feelings of happiness but how we nurture another and sacrifice our own needs for another. So as you reflect on the crucifixion today, the day before the resurrection, think about the act of love Jesus modeled for us by sacrificing Himself and how you can make sacrifices in your life to love others, not just your family and friends but the stranger next to you.
Listen, God, to my prayer; do not hide from my pleading… I rock with grief… My heart pounds within me; death’s terrors fall upon me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me; shuddering sweeps over me. I say, “if only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and find rest. Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert. I would soon find a shelter from the raging wind and storm”… Cast your care upon the Lord, who will give you support. He will never allow the righteous to stumble. Psalm 55:2, 3, 5-9, 23
How many times have you felt so anxious about obstacles in life – the future and finances, trials, lost, illness, marriage issues, or safety and well being of your children? You may be overwhelmed by grief of loss or an illness? Perhaps you are nervous about an upcoming event or promotion? May be you are afraid of conflict with your spouse or safety of your children? Whatever it may be, you may feel so overwhelmed that you just want to escape, escape from the storm that is whirling around you. May be you feel like God isn’t there, that He is hiding from your plea for help, to be saved from these wretched feelings. All you want to do is flee, flee to a desert place where there is no rain, where the storm cannot find you and your anxieties are buried beneath the desert sand.
When I feel this anxious that I cannot see past the storm that all I want to do is find shelter, to be removed from it, I feel like I have fallen away from God. In these moments I don’t look to God and “cast [my] care upon the Lord”. I tell Him that I have this on my own, I’ll take care of it, I’ll just run away from it and it won’t find me. I’m telling Him I don’t need Him to help me. But when I cry out to Him in prayer and look to Him for His support, I find peace knowing that He will take care of me that He will not let me stumble and fall. He will see me through the storm and He will be my shelter. He will save me from the wretchedness of what is troubling me.
If God will not allow us to stumble, then I ask myself and I ask you, why does it take us so long to trust God by calling upon Him in prayer and knowing that He will support us and not allow us to stumble?
If we were having coffee right now, I would embrace you with a hug. I’m not sure if you need a hug but I know that I do. I know you would welcome my hug with love and compassion. That hug would tell me that my worries are just burdens weighing on my shoulders. As you released your embrace I would know that all things will be ok. We would exchange cordial hellos and how are you doing. You would know right away that something has been bothering me. You ask what’s going on. I look at you with a smile knowing you are a loving and trusting friend. With a deep breath in and out, I can feel the peace that our conversation and your hug has already bestowed upon my mind, my heart and my soul. I begin to share the things that weigh my heart down, my concerns of the upcoming days. I begin to visualize the outcomes and consequences and share them with you. You just sit there listening with your heartfelt compassion. When I am done pouring out my heart’s concerns with tears in my eyes, you look upon me and touch my hands. You wait a second before you say a word. You feel my worries through the palms of my hands. You look in my eyes and with the deepest love, you tell me to not be afraid, to not worry that my faith is strong, and I am strong. You tell me “draw from the strength of our Lord, to breathe in each moment and be present and still, for in this moment is where he is. He is not in the future where your mind is imagining the outcomes of the things to come in the days before us. Trust in your faith and the will of our God, and seek the joy and happiness of each moment in time.” Your words are so perfect, your voice angelic. I find peace in each word as you comfort my heart. A tear drops beside my coffee and glistens in the light. With the sparkle of this tear, my heart feels light. Your words and your voice were my healing delight. We continue our conversation and enjoy this time over coffee. By the end of our meeting, my face is brightened with a smile that only you could have helped me to find, with a friendship that is divine.
There are two places I find inspiration to write. One of those places is outside in nature where I can use all my senses to be present and know God surrounds me in all things.
The place I feel most inspired to write, is a quiet place. It is not a palace but it is home to a king. It is a small space, perhaps 2000 sqft. It is a place of rest and a place to just sit and listen. When I walk in, I am overwhelmed with peace. My eyes behold the presence of my king. He is adorned with the most ornate, golden attire. He waits for me as I enter, inviting me to sit and be present with him, to enjoy his peace, his comfort, his love as he embraces my eyes to adore him. I kneel before him and ask him to enlighten me with all that he wants me to hear in this present moment. He touches my shoulders and all the words swarming in my mind flow on to my paper. Words of His love, of His wisdom and His guidance, words of His peace and trust in Him, words from my pain, my sufferings and the beauty He has shown me that can exist from those ashes, all of these words flood my paper each time I am present in this place, each time I sit before Him. For in this place is death and resurrection. In this place is life itself, unending love and mercy. In this place is the body, blood, soul and divinity of my Lord, Jesus Christ, present before me in the Blessed Sacrament and in each breath of air and space. This is my place of comfort, peace and refuge. This is my place I find inspiration to write.
How heavy are your burdens, the weight of the rocks you carry around daily? Are they heavier than the cross that was carried by our Lord? A humbling event is to pray the Way of the Cross, Jesus’ journey to His crucifixion. As you walk along side Jesus, the way His mother did, observing every fall and every wound inflicted from the torturous hits, can you imagine the weight of the cross He carried? Can you see the weight of each one of your rocks being added to His cross? Perhaps when your rocks were added, He fail for the first time or may be the second time.
As I prayed the Way of the Cross, I realized how insignificant my own burdens are compared to the burdens of the entire world. Jesus carried the weight of the entire world as He carried His cross to His crucifixion. The weight of my cross is a small fraction of that in which our Lord carried, yet I often complain or feel sorry for my own crosses I’m asked to carry. When I complain, I pray that they are taken away, that I no longer have to carry them. Then God reminds me that there is sweetness in carrying my cross. In this sweetness is victory, this victory is my relationship with Him, my reliance upon Him in the midst of carrying my cross. When I see this victory, I feel the weight of my cross lift, as that weight is added to Jesus’ cross. As I continue to carry my cross as the weight has lifted, I walk beside Jesus and observe every detail of His journey as this is now my journey. I pray that I complain less about my crosses and embrace them more because this is the journey to accepting God’s will and living in unity with His desires in my life. This is the way to sainthood.
Have you embraced your crosses with love and acceptance, or with anger and resentment? Or have you rejected your crosses that God has asked you to carry?