Rest in Hope
Hope carries us. Hope transforms us. Hope is at the heart of life in the Resurrection. This has been a season of hope. There have been a lot of losses. Our country and world have suffered deaths, sickness, economic loss, and plenty of fear and frustration. Yet, in the midst of it all, the foremost word that comes to mind is hope. The quarantine hit the breaks on everything. Any plans that we had made were shot down. Any thought about where we would be a week ahead was out of the question. We have been left in a standstill, forced to wait and hope: hope that we can get back to normal, hope that we can recover, hope, in the broadest sence of the term, for tomorrow. Hope is also the spirit of the Resurrection. We prepare our hearts for eternity by learning to rest in hope. “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me” (Jn. 16:16). The night Jesus Christ said this He was seized by Roman guards and crucified. He was warning His disciples to wait it out, to hope. A dark night was ahead of them and they needed simply to hold on. Yet, the Church brings us this gospel today, on the Third Sunday of Paschaltide, because these words have a special meaning for our lives after the Resurrection. To be a Christian is to live a life of hope. It is a waiting place, a bit like our weeks quarantined at home, waiting, looking forward, hoping. What do the elderly talk about most before passing away? Home. While working at a retirement community, I often heard residents express their hope to go home. Home was on their hearts and minds more than anything else. People with dementia were most fixated on home. They are constandly trying to get home. It keeps them up at night and spurs them on through the day. Psychologists insist that this is more than mere memory loss. There is something wired deep inside us, in our inner core, that wants home. This sets us apart from everything in the universe. Fish are perfectly content to be in water. Birds are content in the air. Animals are at home in all their natural environments. Yet, we are never at home. Something is always missing. Indeed, our life is like one stretched out shut-down. The human being is the most discontent creature in the world, and this is profoundly holy. Indeed, it is the work of the Christian. We have to tap into that longing — pull ourselves up from all the cares here and long for home. Hope pervades all the Resurrection accounts. Mary Magdalen is weeping in the garden, confused and troubled at the sight of an empty tomb. Then she turns and sees Christ, but she does not recognize Him. This is the first peculiar part of the story. She does not know Him. Neither do any of the apostles. There seems to be something hazy about everyone. Christ has risen from the dead, but they are not able to perceive it. Our souls are are so stuffed up. We live in the brilliant light of Easter, yet, we are blind to it. Do you remember that game, blind man’s bluff? You are blind-folded, and then told to reach out and grab hold of someone. Due to our sins, we live blind-man’s bluff most days of our life, whenever we are anxious, frustrated, bitter, or grumbling. We are Mary, standing before the Resurrected God, yet oblivious. Christ opens her eyes and she calls out, “Rabboni!” “Master!” Christ responds: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” The Greek renders it this way: “Μή μου ἅπτου.” “Do not cling to me.” Christ has risen, but our humanity is not yet ready. Christ has to prepare the mansions in heaven. In other words, he needs to pull up our humanity with him. Even on the Resurrection day, Mary is left in a place of waiting, of hoping, and so are we. Christ has risen and we must too. Listen to the words in our Epistle today. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war” (I Pt. 2:11). We are not home here. We have been set aside from the world, severed from the “normal routine” of worldliness the way the quarantine has severed our country from our “normal.” Our souls are in labor, like the woman in childbirth, and we should be preparing. “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” The Christian must live like a foreigner. We have not arrived. We are in a shut-in, left with one powerful virtue: hope. On Pascha Day, in the prayers of the Divine Office, the Church gives us this meditation: “The Lamb’s high banquet we await, In snow-white robes of royal state: And now, the Red Sea’s channel past, To Christ our Prince we sing at last. O thou, from whom hell’s monarch flies, O great, O very Sacrifice, Thy captive people are set free, And endless life restored in thee. We pray thee, King with glory decked, In this our Paschal joy, protect from all that death would fain effect, Thy ransomed flock, thine own elect.” We are exiles in the world. We are in labor, waiting out this time until the better day. We are living in the dawn of the Resurrection. What are we supposed to be doing? We need to rest in hope. Make hope an entire way of living. Hope in the resurrection, when you wake up and go to bed. Hope in paradise, when you say your prayers and when you drive to work. Hope in the eternal bliss prepared by Christ with every thought and deed. Let go of the world, and live in hope.