Pope Francis leads a prayer service in an empty St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 27, 2020. CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, pool via Reuters

Editorial: We choose hope

  • April 9, 2020

It was wet and dreary in an empty St. Peter’s Square March 27 as Pope Francis bestowed on Rome and the world an extraordinary blessing in these extraordinary times. But he defied the gloom of COVID-19 with a much-needed testament of hope amid this crisis, a hope conferred on us by the risen Lord that comforts us in hard times and which we celebrate with particular joy at Easter.

The Pope reminded a worldwide audience that the death and resurrection of Jesus saved and redeemed mankind. “We have hope,” he said. “By His cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from His redeeming love.”

In times such as these when we feel frail and vulnerable, said the Pope, we are challenged to “choose what matters in life” and “to separate what is necessary from what is not.” Easter likewise calls us to rejoice in the great promise of eternal life, to reject what is superfluous and embrace the cross, embrace hope.

Hope is not optional for Christians. We may feel anxious as COVID-19 disrupts our world, but Easter instructs Christians to overcome pessimism and be disciples of the joyful optimism revealed by the empty tomb.

That message doesn’t change because we are homebound and in many cases cut off from families, workplaces, friends and even separated from the sacraments and our churches during this holiest time of year. Indeed, we must celebrate the passion, death and resurrection in certainty that our earthly sufferings are conquered by the faith we proclaim at Easter.

Two thousand years ago the apostles were self-isolating in despair behind locked doors and shuttered windows following the betrayal, torture and crucifixion. For them, the execution of Jesus signalled the end of hope. Their world was crushed to the point where they feared contact with the outside world could bring a violent death.

But those feelings of despair and fear were transformed into joy and hope when they witnessed the risen Lord and came to understand the promise of eternal life. The tomb, they realized, wasn’t final.

Do not be afraid, Christ told the apostles. Do not be afraid, the Pope repeated in St Peter’s Square. Do not be afraid, we are reminded at Easter.

These are difficult days yet Easter calls us to be disciples of hope, to renounce desolation and bear witness to the joy proclaimed by a resurrected Christ.

That message is even more profound at a time of uncertainty and universal suffering. Even in our anxiety Christians are called to be Easter people, disciples of faith, joy and confidence who will overcome a natural human reflex to let the evil of a worldwide virus darken us with despair or anger.

As Pope Francis said, as Christians we are being challenged to choose what matters. Easter tells us what matters. We choose hope.

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