Dear Brothers and Sisters:
We’ve just completed both the Lent we didn’t choose and the Holy Week, also not of our preference and choosing. We’ve been forced by circumstances beyond our control to fast from the companionship of our neighbors, friends and relatives, co-workers, and most painful of all — the celebration of the Eucharist and from the reception of Holy Communion with our parish communities. Though we’re not out of the woods and darkness yet, our Christian Faith and the example of Jesus and of our Holy Father Francis give an assurance and spirit of confidence to our Hope. “Behold,” Jesus said, “I am with you all days even to the end of the world.”
In Genesis we read, “. . . there was darkness over the deep . . . “ A few lines later, “God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that light was good (Genesis 1: 1- 4).‘ ”
In His last moments on the cross, Jesus asked His Father, “Why have you abandoned me?” Yet, a few minutes later, we hear Him say, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus moving from the darkness of his Passion and Death into the peaceful presence of the Father. But for his disciples, still the darkness of Holy Saturday rules until . . .
. . . three days later, in the joyful brilliance of the Resurrection, He emerges from the tomb! Matthew tells us, “His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow.” The guards so shaken by what was happening that they became as dead men — unable to move.
The last years of St. Francis’ life also give us his example of moving from darkness to light. Rejected as leader of the community he had founded, blind with cauterized eyes, suffering from other bodily weaknesses, he writes the “Praises of God” and “The Canticle of the Creatures” — both hymns of adoration and praise without one bit of self pity or complaint or despair.
During the last weeks, our entire planet has been bathed in the horrendous darkness of the Covid 19 virus with uncountable numbers of deaths, painful illnesses, loneliness, and devastations to national economies in every nation from giant corporations to mom-and-pop businesses. We’ve all experienced things we could not have imagined. No one has been exempt from the pain — nor are we at the end of this pandemic. Our pain, grief, and suffering is not over!
As Christians and Franciscans, however, we can offer to the deeply suffering world the gift of undying and unquenchable Christian Hope. Why? As one writer used to say, “We know the end of the story.”
During the Easter Proclamation (Exultet) we sing “ . . . let the earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King . . .” And further, “This is the night of which it is written, . . . the night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night and full of gladness.” And, “May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star; the one Morning Star who never sets, CHRIST YOUR SON . . . who has shed his peaceful light on all humanity.”
Jesus, our Morning Star has gone before us; He IS risen from the darkness of death and shows Himself, the brilliant Light that He IS on us. He IS the way, the truth, the life, and the LIGHT that takes away all darkness of every kind and form. We need not fear! We need only “ . . .to keep our eyes fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:2).”
He IS risen! He IS risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Indeed, we do know “the end of the story”! Let us rejoice and be glad!