In his Wednesday General Audience today, April 5, Pope Francis spoke of the hope that arises from the cross, which is a true paradox. He began by asking “Where is your hope?” Do we, accordingly, place it rightly in Christ? Or do we place it in the passing fads of the world. We can trust Christ, but why? He can be our hope, but how?
One image remained fixed in the minds of the disciples: the cross. That is where everything ended.That is where the end of everything was centred. But in a little while, they would discover a new beginning right there, in the cross. Dear brothers and sisters, this is how God’s hope germinates. It is born and reborn in the black holes of our disappointed expectations – and hope, true hope,instead, never disappoints. Let us think precisely about the cross: out of the most terrible instrument of torture, God wrought the greatest sign of his love. Having become the tree of life, that wood of death reminds us that God’s beginnings often begin with our ends. Thus, he loves to work wonders. So today, let us look at the tree of the cross so that hope might germinate in us – that everyday virtue, that silent, humble virtue, but also that virtue that keeps us on our feet, that helps us move forward. It is not possible to live without hope.
Our endings turn into God’s greatest beginnings. It is in stripping ourselves of our outward and inward “masks” that true healing and hope can flourish. This, true humility, is the beginning of hope.
God is stripped – He who has everything allowed Himself to be stripped of everything. But that humiliation is the path of our redemption. This is how God overcomes our appearances. Indeed, we find it difficult to bare ourselves, to be truthful. We always try to cover the truth because we do not like it…And stripped of everything, Jesus reminds us that hope is reborn by being truthful about ourselves – to tell ourselves the truth – by letting go of duplicity, by freeing ourselves from peacefully co-existing with our falsity.
What we need is to go back to basics. This is the simplicity of heart without these extra trappings Pope Francis calls “surrogate of hope”.
How many ways do I find surrogates of hope in my own life? What do I try to hide? My pain, my sin. We see this a lot in the Church right now– leaders who try to hide and sweep away the sins of her ministers instead of bringing them to light and letting that light heal. When I was addicted to masturbation, the one piece of advice I received that made all the difference was, “Drag it into the light.” So I did. Instead of letting myself off the hook for this addiction, I kept dragging it into the light. And the more I did that, the more healing I found. I found hope. Let it be so with all of our sins and failings and wounds.
We too are wounded – who isn’t in life? And they are often hidden wounds we hide out of embarrassment. Who does not bear the scars of past choices, of misunderstandings, of sorrows that remain inside and are difficult to overcome? But also of wrongs suffered, sharp words, unmerciful judgements? God does not hide the wounds that pierced his body and soul, from our eyes. He shows them so we can see that a new passage can be opened with Easter: to make holes of lights out of our own wounds…Jesus does not incriminate on the cross, but loves. He loves and forgives those who hurt him (cf. Lk 23:34). Thus, he converts evil into good; thus, he converts and transforms sorrow into love.
The more we let our wounds be united to the wounds of Christ, the more light pours forth into the world and into our own hearts. That is true hope.
Our wounds can become springs of hope when, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or hiding them, we dry the tears shed by others; when, instead of nourishing resentment for what was robbed of us, we take care of what others are lacking; when, instead of dwelling on ourselves, we bend over those who suffer; when, instead of being thirsty for love, we quench the thirst of those in need of us. For it is only if we stop thinking of ourselves, that we will find ourselves again…And it is by doing this, the Scriptures say, that our wound is healed quickly (cf. Is 58:8), and hope flourishes anew.
Let hope flourish anew in your life this Holy Week and Easter season. May we unite ourselves to Christ in this way.
Image by Gustave Doré courtesy of Wikimedia commons
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Theresa Zoe Williams is a writer with credits all over the Catholic inter-webs. She received her BA in Theology, Catechetics/Youth Ministry, and English Writing from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has contributed to the books Catholic Hipster Handbook: The Next Level and Epic Saints: Wild, Wonderful, and Weird Stories of God's Heroes. And has written her own book, A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses. She is Pennsylvanian by birth, Californian by heart, and in Ohio for the time being. Yinz can find her on Twitter @TheresaZoe.