By Timothy R. Lannon, S. J.
I have always felt that we are blessed to live in a climate that experiences spring. While I enjoy all the seasons, none speaks of hope and new beginnings more than spring.
Spring provides us the perfect season to observe Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All around us, we see signs of nature’s hopefulness. We feel it in the air, we breathe it in, and we marvel at the beautiful colors budding on trees and popping up in flower gardens.
Easter matches these outward signs by filling us with hope on the inside. We are coming out of Lent and especially Holy Week, when we reflect upon Christ’s sufferings and often the things in ourselves and in the world that we know are not right.
Because Christ willingly died as an offering for the sins of all of us, and proved victory over sin and death through his resurrection, we are given great hope. Another way that I like to look at this truth is that Jesus’ love for you and me—for all people—is greater than his love for himself. Love like that is extraordinary and causes us to pause—and fills us with gratitude and hope.
We have hope that good can truly come out of evil, that somehow God will bring something good out of the setbacks and tragedies of our lives. This hope allows us to start over, to believe again when our faith has been shaken. We find the hope to love again, after our love has been rejected and we have been tempted to hate.
We see the tremendous acts done by people of faith in our own time and throughout the centuries and we have hope that God can do miraculous and extraordinary things through us—just ordinary people. Our hope brings forth faith that we can always put our hand in the hand of God.
There is something else about the hope of Easter. For believers, it provides the comfort that there is more to this life than we can see and that God has plans that we would never imagine.
That was demonstrated to me on a visit to Africa that I was fortunate to make in 2007. While there, I visited Gulu in the northern part of Uganda. At that time, the rebel forces were beginning to diminish but were still raising havoc in that area of the country. I had the opportunity to meet a woman religious who is also a nurse, Sister Norma Jean.
She had the courage to go into the rebel-held areas to meet the medical needs of the people although it was very dangerous for her to do so. The rebels were notorious for their brutality, including killing six lay people who had been ministering to the people.
Sister Norma Jean related that one evening she was in fact captured by the rebels. She was made to lie flat, face down on the ground, and was told by the rebels that they were going to kill her. She responded, “You cannot take my life away!” The rebels asked her why not. She told them, “I have already given my life to Christ, so you can’t take my life away from me.” Miraculously, the rebels let her go!
That amazing story of one woman’s faith and hope in God has touched me deeply and I often think about it.
During this Easter season, whether Christian or not, it might be helpful for us to consider to whom or to what have we handed over our lives? For some, our lives have been handed over to addictions. For others, we have handed our lives over to our jobs. Unfortunately, we often allow the demands placed on us in our work and professions to keep us from such reflection. I suspect that most Americans would say that they have never worked harder than in these past five-plus years, and in some cases, that has been at a cost to themselves and others.
My prayer this Easter season is that, filled with Easter hope, we strive to hand over our lives to our God and allow God to fill us, leading us to be more courageous and loving people. If we allow the hope of Easter to fully bloom in our lives, we will surely find the courage to live as Sister Norma Jean did, facing whatever comes our way with hope.