March 29, 2013


Easter witnesses of hope and joy

Easter is the season of hope and joy.

We have hope because sin and death have been overcome—once and for all.

The darkness of despair has been vanquished, and light has come into our weary world never to be permanently extinguished. Yes, there may be dark days and troubled times ahead—for us as individuals and for the human family. But we Christians believe that the hope made possible by Christ’s resurrection will remain vibrant and unshakable until he comes again on the Last Day.

We have joy because the Lord we love is risen! The bitter sorrow we experienced during the Triduum’s sacred remembrance of his Passion and death has been replaced by the joy of his Resurrection. Sadness has no lasting place in our hearts now. Winter has given way to spring, evil has been destroyed and love has conquered death.

Hope and joy are major themes in the teaching of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Hope and joy are everywhere present in the words and actions of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. We are a blessed people. Christ is risen! The Lord who surrendered to the humiliation and suffering of the Cross is fully alive now, the source of our hope and joy.

Pope Francis is a model for everyone who seeks the hope and joy of life in Christ. Humility, simplicity of life, care for all creation, protection for all our sisters and brothers—especially the poor and marginalized. These are the signs of hope we long for. These are the virtues that show us the way to joy.

God has a plan for us. Just as in the grand progression of Church history St. Francis of Assisi followed St. Benedict, so now our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, has succeeded our pontiff emeritus, Pope Benedict. People of faith, who believe in Divine Providence, know this is no coincidence.

The inspiration of St. Benedict and his monastic followers made possible the conversion of Europe, and the preservation of the wisdom of western civilization. St. Benedict was not a “conservative” in the modern sense, but the monks who followed him were responsible for conserving the best of Christian teaching and practice, and then sharing it generously with the diverse peoples of the European continent and beyond. Even today, Benedictines are men and women whose prayer and work sustain our Easter hope and joy.

The inspiration of St. Francis and his friars transformed a Christian culture that had become soft and decadent. St. Francis was not a “liberal” as we misuse this term today, but the women and men who traveled with him were evangelizers who imitated Christ and who liberally proclaimed the Gospel by their actions as well as their words. The result was an incredible spiritual renewal that touched both the Old World and the New World. Even today, Franciscans are women and men whose ministry gives witness to the true meaning of Christian hope and joy.

It is no wonder that eight years ago German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is first and foremost a teacher and a conserver of our Catholic faith, chose the name Benedict. His calling was—and still is—to bear witness to the word of God as the meaning of our individual lives and our world. Pope Benedict, a shy and retiring man, forced himself to stand before the world and courageously preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like his namesake, Pope Benedict now gives witness to hope and joy by living a monastic life of balance and moderation—devoting himself to prayer and to holy reading.

It is no coincidence that just two weeks ago Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, a humble and simple man of the people, chose the name Francis. His calling is to breathe into the Church new life and a renewed spirit of commitment to the poor, our sisters and brothers in Christ. Pope Francis, a man who is constantly reaching out to touch the people he serves, now extends his arms to embrace 1.2 billion Catholics in every region of the world. Like his namesake, Pope Francis assures us that peace and joy can be ours if we turn to Jesus Christ and imitate him.

Are there problems facing our Church? Unquestionably. Will there be dark days ahead for Pope Francis and for each of us? Absolutely. But Christ is risen! With the help of his grace, we can face whatever comes with the profound hope and lasting joy of Easter.

—Daniel Conway

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