Dear Friars, Benefactors, and Friends of the Franciscan Friars,
Greetings and prayers for an abundance of blessings at this solemn and sacred time. May He Who offered Himself to incredible suffering and death lift any fear and uncertainty from you at this moment in history.
As we offer many different prayers, it seems to me that Easter is a pivotal point in our lives both liturgically and spiritually. The times before and after Easter are very different from one another. The Lenten experience has elements of blame, sin, error, selfishness, and short-sightedness, to mention a few. There is the tug-of-war between God and man. God tries, again and again, to bring back the wayward with history repeating itself. God’s promise that His love will succeed is found throughout the Old Testament. Lent is a time for us to get on board with God better than we have ever done before.
With Easter God has prevailed. His plan and desire for salvation for all human beings is firmly in place. But it takes participation on our part to fulfill the plan. Our role is to say “yes” to God’s plan, to God’s forgiveness, to God’s love. I sense that there is a feeling that our efforts to get people on board with this have not been particularly successful. Fewer people are active in their faith; many have walked away from their faith; hopes for growth in the future are dim. This is in God’s hands and not our own.
For centuries, history groaned with an almost infinite agony waiting for redemption. Jesus suffered that infinite agony on the cross and brought forth an infinite ecstasy that will never disappear. The Easter season now celebrates joy, hope, forgiveness, infinite love, future glory, the support and strength from God, to mention a few elements.
We need to remind ourselves that our task is to revel in the ecstasy given to us by God. That does not eliminate human suffering and confusion. Rather it gives context to the unfinished path ahead of us. We leave behind human imperfections when we die. In the meantime, we struggle with limited agony and with limited ecstasy.
And how do we find comfort in the imperfect lives that we experience? The answer lies in a charity that augments the charity of God in our world. We begin with fraternal charity. Then there is the charity that reaches beyond ourselves and our Franciscan communities.
Isn’t that what Francis did in reassessing his life? He took to heart the example of Christ at the Last Supper in serving the disciples. He picked up and carried the cross and the burden of suffering. He was hard on his human body (Brother Body). And he strove to enter as fully as possible into the ecstasy of God’s love by returning that love as best as he was able. May God give you the grace to do likewise.
It might help to remember the words of the prophet Hosea: “Let us return to the Lord. For it is He who has rent, but He will heal us; He has struck us, but He will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, to live in His presence.”
May God pour forth His gifts of love, support, and care in abundance on each of you.