Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Springtime and Pope Francis | The Blue Wilderness

NOTE: Another beautiful reflection by Br. Joseph Powell, OFM, from his blog, The Blue Wilderness:

Br. Joseph Powell, OFM

Lent and Easter have left their share of impressive imagery, as they always do. Bare churches and mournful hymns now give way to lilies and gold-white vestments and thundering Alleluias. The wet March weather, with its cold mornings and overcast skies, has gone lamb-like away to make room for sunny April. The Easter vacation load of tourists and pilgrimage groups throng the streets and buses. Under the creak and strain of new life, Rome stretches itself luxuriously towards summer.
That is the first impression one gets this time of year — bright skies, a quickening pulse, new hope and optimism. Winter and the whole troublesome past seem merely a waiting period, not very pleasant but necessary, which has now been replaced by better things. It’s the natural Easter high. Or as Shakespeare (I think) said: “Spring-time, the only pretty ring-time, birds sing, ey ding, a ding a ding, sweet lovers love the Spring!” Unless that was Willy Wonka.
Looking deeper, though, there are monster shadows lurking under this apparent calm. In Italy we have the government crisis filling the daily papers, deadlocked politicians unable or unwilling to come to a consensus. People worry about the economy, unemployment, and the sticky issues getting only stickier each day. Elsewhere, Syrian civilians continue to suffer and die in the cross-fire of revolution. Tensions in Asia skyrocket beneath the threats of North Korea. The Arab Spring struggles to overcome the replacement of one dictatorship with another. Throughout the world, the Good News of Easter lies buried under more and more distressing, shocking, and just plain bad news.
As Christians, believing in the Risen Christ sometimes seems only a part of that Easter high when Lent’s finally over and the sun’s shining overhead. But once we’re caught yet again in the turmoil and distress of our daily lives, and of the larger global life on Planet Earth, any Resurrection News can risk sounding like an animated fairy-tale movie: a nice escape, but not helpful to the larger scheme of things. That’s the challenge we take on when we decide to believe, and continue to believe, in Jesus Christ — how do we live the Resurrection in the here and now? How does the Crucified and Risen Christ appear to us, as He did to Thomas, so we might put our fingers in His wounds, hear His voice, and say, “My Lord and God!”?
The newly-elected Pope Francis has offered his own reflections on following the Lord of the Paschal Mystery. In his homily for the Chrism Mass, the Bishop of Rome exhorted his fellow priests to “live in the odor of the sheep” — to be close to the flock entrusted to their care, and of which they too are members under the One Good Shepherd. For the Holy Thursday Mass, Pope Francis celebrated at a local penitentiary, emphasizing the need for Christians to “move out to the peripheries” of society, as Jesus of Nazareth did. And in his Angelus addresses the pope speaks with the simplicity of ordinary people who believe, of ordinary virtues always possible and always applicable, and of the power of grace to transform our lives at any instant and in any circumstance.
Living the Easter high can help us refreshen our views on life, oil our squeaky wheels, pump new air into our deflated souls. Without the presence of the Risen One in the challenging moments, however, we will not be able to keep it up for very long. Jesus Christ is more than a nice animated movie plot — He is the very promise of grace waiting to meet us at every turn, even a turn for the worst. Pope Francis reminds us of the eternal relevance of the Gospel message: Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again! Let this message give us courage. It will not always be Spring-time (the only pretty ring-time), but it will always be Resurrection Sunday.

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