Embracing Hope this Easter Week, Reflection by Father Dennis Noelke, CSB

Father Dennis Noelke, CSB, fourth councilor, offers this reflection on embracing hope this Easter week:

On February 26, we began our Lenten journey of 2020. We were signed with ashes as a symbol of our willingness to embark on this journey supported by our traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and good works. A few weeks into the journey, it took an unexpected and never before experienced turn for all of us as we were made aware of the quickly spreading Coronavirus.

For me, the traditional practices took on new meaning. Prayer intensified and was focused on seeking God’s mercy for our world. Fasting was not the usual “giving up” of certain food, beverages, or activities. There was fasting from the physical interactions with family members, confrères, colleagues, students, parishioners, and friends as a result of the new normal of “social distancing.” Good works were now internally directed in serving confrères in the local community. We also serve Basilians living independently with a phone call or an email. Indeed, staying isolated was, in itself, a good work.

Indeed, Lent 2020 was very different in look and feel.

Now we have come to Easter. Easter also looked very different this year. We were not gathered in churches and chapels, proclaiming with the sound of the organ, our voices raised in joyful Alleluias as we sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” We were not experiencing the beauty and scents of the Easter lilies and other spring flowers. Yes, this Easter Week of 2020 looks and feels very different.

However, no matter how different this Easter looked or felt to us, the truth of the day and its octave remains unchanged: JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! No matter how different this Easter week looks or feels, we again celebrate Jesus’ triumph over sin and death; we again celebrate the truth that Jesus brings light which shatters the darkness which we experience with this pandemic; we again celebrate that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, renews our hope in the midst of despair. As Pope Francis noted in his “Urbi et Orbi” message in March, “He is risen and is living by our side.”

There is no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives and the lives of people everywhere. However, let us not forget an even more profound truth: the resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed our lives, and the lives of all women and men of every time and place, in even greater ways. What we celebrated this past Sunday and for the next 50 days is Good News, indeed Great News! Again, quoting Pope Francis, “Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.”

As we celebrate the Easter season of 2020, may we embrace hope, experience deep peace, and rejoice because JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!

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