Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
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“Jesus said to his disciples” “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
Timing is everything. Last night I gave a talk at the “Float On Annual Dinner for 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation.” Its founders, Carol and David Basso, lost their daughter Anna to Ewing Sarcoma, a devastating bone cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents. I can honestly say I have always considered their daughter a saint. So when they asked me to speak at their annual gathering, I could not have been more honored or thrilled. Carol asked me to speak about HOPE.
As I prepared for my talk, my mind kept wandering back to something Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” I used this verse as the central point of my talk. Little did I know it was today’s Gospel passage!
God’s timing is everything.
Below are my reflections from last night.
I hope to buy this car…I hope to get asked to the prom…I hope I get into this fraternity…I hope to get this job…
I hope to live.
We can cut our hopes short, just like we can our lives.
Hope is an essential part of life…and death. So we need to make sure we plant it everywhere we go and in everything we say and do. Let’s take care of it, and cultivate it, so that we can harvest it at the fullness of time. Why? Because without hope we would never grow or never change or never fully understand who and what we are. Without hope we would remain trapped in our fears, regrets and/or resentments. Without hope we would cut short our lives.
So what exactly is hope? Hope is the virtue that allows us to see beyond the present; that is, beyond the moment, the now. It allows us to enter into the future, even if only for a brief moment, and dive into two profound realities: ourselves and God. But it also does something else: it places a halo around life problems. Hope does not live in a fantasy world, where there is no pain or suffering. It doesn’t scoff at our tears or miseries. If anything, it respects them and sheds light from above on them.
Problems that are not. Recently, I heard at the dinner table about a thread on twitter called #1stworldproblems. Don’t go there. It’s not worth it. It’s a joke, a delusion. The problems listed on this thread are not at all real problems. They are just silly distractions. It’s bogus! Actually, it’s just a decoy to real 1st world problems: cutting, eating disorders, divorce, pornography, illness, drug addictions and teen suicides. These are real problems. The rest are gross understatements.
The tragedy is this: if we cannot even identify real problems, then how will we be able to have real hope? If hope becomes shortsighted or narrow minded or shallow, then so to will our lives be. It’s time we go deep.
Do not let your hearts be troubled? How could Jesus say this, especially right before his betrayal and crucifixion? How could He speak these words if He knew what was going to happen to him? “Do not let your hearts be troubled?” Are you kidding? You’re about to be arrested, beaten, whipped, mocked and humiliated, belittled and crucified. And you say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled???” Are you serious?
Before I gave my talk, a young girl got up and gave her testimony. Staci Muckleroy is a survivor of Ewings Sarcoma. She was diagnosed with it while in high school. On May 5th, she celebrated five years of being cancer-free. Every words she said kept my attention. And what she said both scared me and surprised me.
She said: The pain I felt in my hip was excruciating. It brought me to tears. It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life. I was afraid. I wanted to give up so many times. But there were people in my life that fought for me and believed in me. They gave me hope. Today, I thank God for giving me this illness. It has made me the person I am today. It has made me a better person.
We need people like Staci in our lives. I need people like Staci in my life. I need people like Staci and Anna in my life. In their own incredible ways, they make me want to be a better man and a better priest. They make me want to live my life better. Life’s serious problems create tremendous opportunities for growth and hope, which brings out the best in us: gratitude and reassurance. Gratitude to everyone. Reassurance for everything.
Do not let your hearts be troubled is a message of hope to His disciples. It is a message they took with them to the four corners of the world and to me:
My hope is that I can right a wrong, and be forgiven. My hope is that my tears can one day turn to gladness. My hope is that this present struggle can make me a better man. My hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth. My hope is that we can turn evil on its head. My hope is that we can find a cure for cancer and still be as brave as Anna and Staci.
My hope in life cannot be to just live longer. It must be to live forever. It has to be. Our hope in life cannot be to just be healthy and/or successful. It must be to be happy and holy. Otherwise, when we find the cure for cancer, it will only be a temporary victory, quickly lost in the confusion of another great disappointment or serious problem, like pollution, abuse, war or terrorism.
God’s message. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my life? These questions may seem a bit scary, but boy are they very important and worth investigating, for the answers we seek and find will determine how we live and how we die.
No wonder why the Lord kept repeating over and over and over again to His disciples: “Do not be afraid.”
Yes, Do not be afraid to enter into God’s presence. After all, this is where we will find our Hope and our God, for God is present in our hope.
In the most terrifying of ways, Staci found God. In the midst of her suffering and pain, she learned what was and wasn’t important in life. Did God not reveal His love for us in the same way: in the midst of human suffering? Did He not reveal what was and wasn’t important while suffering on the Cross? Having loved His own who were in the world. He loved them to the end.
Fight the fight! Fight till the end. Never give in and never give up!
Hope is a way of life best found in a person: Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Come follow me.”
How can I nourish hope? Hope is different from faith and love. Faith can be intellectually nourished. I can come to understand that there is more to life than just what ear can hear and eye can see. Faith gives depth and width, meaning and purpose, meat and potatoes to life and death.
Love bears all things, endures all things and even believes all things. It can quickly grow and appear out of nowhere. Love gives us the reason to give and forgive; to smile and to sacrifice. Love makes life worth living.
But what about hope? How can I nourish hope? How can I make it grow? I think there is only two ways: (1) to closely examine the lives of those who have gone through hell and have come back to tell about it; and (2) to face our gravest problems by uniting ourselves on the Cross with Christ, the one who knows His way out of the grave.
Hope is essential to make life worth living and suffering worth traversing.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (Jn 14:1).
Hope in Christ gives us a strength to keep going, and the courage to let go. It is finished. (0)