The Catholic Messenger
On Easter Sunday, Parade magazine published an excerpt from a homily that Pope Francis gave in July during his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day. The excerpt focused on embracing hope, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy. Each is described as an attitude.
I visited the Vatican website to re-read the homily* and reflected on how the Holy Father’s message, which he conveys by example, relates to my life.
Everyone has difficulties in life, the pope reminds us, but he emphasizes: “…always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Never let us lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!”
Who hasn’t been tempted to lose hope? Occasionally, hope slips from my grasp, but God redirects my attention toward other people’s situations and I gain a sense of perspective in the process. How can I feel blue about a slow-healing tibia when I see video footage of a young girl who lost a leg in last year’s Boston Marathon tragedy limping bravely to a memorial site? How can I feel overwhelmed by situations involving my autistic son Colin when I’ve just read about a family who provided loving care around the clock for a baby son with a fatal disease?
The pope reminds us that people of hope — “the great hope that faith gives us — know that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and surprises us.” That happened on Holy Thursday when I, singing with the choir at Our Lady of the River Church in LeClaire, saw Colin wearing an alb and walking down the center aisle as cross bearer for the Mass. Unbeknownst to me, he had been asked if he would like to serve.
Also on Holy Thursday, I learned that my younger son Patrick, a college freshman, has an interview for a part-time job he’s been hoping to obtain.
Another example of hope that surprises: being able to stand on two feet again, even if one of them is in a therapeutic boot!
Pope Francis implores us to trust God, to stay with God, even in the midst of difficulties. It will change us, and draw us closer in friendship with God. No one desires an accident or diagnosis of a disease, but for me, an accident has raised awareness of the sufferings of others and how fortunate I am to be on the mend.
An attitude of joy is essential, the pontiff said in his homily. Christians can’t possibly be pessimists, he insisted, because sin and death have been defeated!
My attitude was joyous as I walked out of church Easter Sunday morning into glorious sunshine and a green, budding world. We had just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus with trumpet and song, prayer and Eucharist, and the baptism of an infant boy. All of us in the packed church reaffirmed our commitment to our Catholic faith.
Heading toward the car after Mass with my husband Steve, I noticed a husband and wife in another vehicle who hadn’t been to church in a while because of health challenges. What a joy to see them and to visit with them, even for just a couple of minutes.
That afternoon, our family traveled to a favorite park we’ve been visiting for years, Mississippi Palisades State Park near Savanna, Ill. Patrick said he really enjoyed our family outing, a simple pleasure that fanned an attitude of joy in all four of us.
Pope Francis delivered his hope-filled homily in July, but his words seem especially fitting at Eastertime. Parade made an eloquent choice for its Easter Sunday front-page feature.
*(Our Lady of the Conception of Aparecida, Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis, July 24, 2013.)