By Jan Alkire
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which God has called you, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18,19)
My husband and I have twin daughters who grew up to be loving, caring adults. But for a while during their teen years, every day featured a battle of the wills with an overall theme: their way or our way. One hot-button item surfaced again and again: our ban on R-rated movies. “Everyone else watches them, why can’t I?” “You don’t respect my choices.” “It’s not fair.”
Toward the end of the girls’ sophomore year at Bishop Blanchet High School, I sat down in the chaplain’s office with Fr. Gordon Douglas and tearfully told him it had been a tough year. After chatting for awhile, he said St. Paul wrote about faith, hope, and love and told the Corinthians that the greatest virtue is love. “That’s true,” said Father Doug. “But I believe the first virtue we need is hope. To be able to love difficult people, you have to have hope that they will not always be like this.”
Hope: I feel no need for it when skies are blue, children are angelic, and all’s well with the world. But I surely do need it with difficult people and during difficult times like these. That’s when I long for the Spirit to “enlighten the eyes of my heart” so I can discover—or rediscover—how to be more deeply connected to “the greatness of God’s power.”
Recently I imagined turning back the clock 2,000 years to join the holy men and women who journeyed with Jesus during his time here on earth. These faithful disciples traveled with Jesus in his public ministry, were shattered by his crucifixion, and rejoiced in his Resurrection. And then? Then perhaps they wanted—and expected—a return to those good old pre-crucifixion days when Jesus was physically present with them, ready to heal the sick, speak words of infinite wisdom, and settle disputes that inevitably arise in any close-knit group.
But no. Instead of going backwards, the Risen Lord appeared briefly over the course of 40 days, said puzzling things about getting “clothed with power on high” (Luke 24:49), then vanished into a cloud, leaving behind a stunned group of followers. Was this the end?
Of course we now know that what looked like the end soon became a glorious beginning: Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit! The lived reality of Jesus’ words: “I am with you always, until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20) Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Fast forward to the 21st century and the arrival of a plague called Covid-19. Two years ago it slammed into the world, upended our lives, killed and sickened millions—including some of our loved ones—kept us physically apart from one another, and gave rise to bitter fighting about a vaccine. It’s been a long crucifixion.
I often hear people say, “I can hardly wait for Covid to be over so we can go back to normal life.” They dream of returning to those pre-Crucifixion, pre-Covid days. I’d like to suggest something better: ponder our own passages from Good Friday to Pentecost and beyond—reflect on how Jesus’ journey during his life on earth has been ours as well; receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit; be renewed with hope.
We are part of a world that longs for—is dying for!—hope. God wants you and me to be messengers of the blessings we receive, to pass on to others the words that God spoke to Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.”(29:11). For this prophecy to blossom, we must be willing to actively seek the Lord’s will, believing his plan will unfold as we do so. We also need the courage to go where the Spirit leads us and share what our Good and Gracious God has done for us. Let us begin with prayer:
“God of heaven and earth, thank you for caring about the choices I make. Thank you for leading me toward fullness of life. I ask you to give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to sense your will for me today, tomorrow, and on into the future. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Amen.”1
1Closing prayer is from Chapter 12: “Discernment,” Seeking Christ through Friendship by Jan Alkire (Paulist Press, 2019)