'Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!' Sunday Reflections, Easter Sunday, Year C


The Resurrection of Christ, Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]


ReadingsEaster Vigil (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

ReadingsEaster Sunday (New American Bible)

ReadingsEaster Vigil (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)


ReadingsEaster Sunday (Jerusalem Bible)

GospelEaster Vigil Luke 24:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)   

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The Resurrection of Christ, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Gospel Easter Sunday John 20:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)   
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,  and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The Gospel of the Easter Vigil may also be used.
Léachtaí i nGaeilge Aifreann an Domhnaigh


Regina Coeli
Sung at a Vigil for Life in Notre-Dame de Paris
22 May 2012


Queen of heaven rejoice, alleluia!
for he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia!
has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!
Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons and daughters of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Happy Easter to all of you! (Pope Benedict, Easter Sunday 2011).

I have told the following story before here and on many other occasions, especially giving retreats. Each time I share it or recall it I experience the truth of Pope Benedict's words, Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. I have also learned that persons with a deep, committed faith can sometimes be very fragile.

Nearly 40 years ago I spent part of a summer working in a suburban parish in the USA. One night at around 11 I did something I rarely did: make a late night phone call, and for no other reason than to say 'Hi'. I phoned a friend who was a teacher whom I had first met eleven years earlier when I was a young priest and she a generous, idealistic but confused 16-year-old. Over the years I saw 'Lily' - I'll call her that since that flower is often associated with Easter in northern climes and this is an Easter story – very rarely as I was in the Philippines.


I was shocked when 'Lily' answered. Her speech was slurred. She told me she had taken an overdose of a drug prescribed for a serious illness she had. I told her I would come over immediately but she said she would not let me in. She lived on her own but near her parents, about thirty minutes from where I was. I took another priest with me.

'Lily', of course, let us in. We spent about three hours with her. I was satisfied that what she had taken wasn't enough to kill her and that she wouldn't do anything drastic in the meantime. I promised to return in the morning.

I spent most of the next two days with 'Lily'. I called her doctor and also phoned a helpline for those dealing with or attempting suicide. 

I had seen 'Lily' grow in her faith over the years. After qualifying as a teacher she chose to teach in a parochial elementary school rather than in a public school, even though the salary was lower. She had a sense of mission. She came from a Catholic family but was aware since her childhood of her father's infidelity. But when she had attempted suicide when about 17 she saw her parents' great love for her, despite everything.

Yet it was something her mother said to her that had triggered off this latter attempt at suicide. 'Lily' felt that she wasn't living up to her mother's expectations. I think it was during the second morning I was with 'Lily' that she asked me, 'What are your expectations of me?' I answered, 'I don't have any expectations, only hopes'.

Hearing the word 'only hopes' was the turning point. That was when 'Lily' decided to live.

A few days later ‘Lily’ came to the parish where I was for confession and Mass and she was truly filled with the joy that only the Lord can give. She also wrote me a long letter - she was a wonderful letter-writer - about her experience. 

Woman Writing  Letter, Gerard Terborch [Web Gallery of Art]

In her letter 'Lily' said: I have come to learn more about myself - as a 'vulnerable' yet 'hopeful' person, and yet even more important - I feel that my relationship with the Lord has deepened. I have a deeper hunger to be united with Him on a more intimate and dependent level.

Further on 'Lily' wrote: Most times we need to see and hear and feel Christ through another, to be able to believe in Him more faithfully and securely . . . I realize that years and years of therapy can amount to nothing unless the Lord is a very central part of it. I was able to share my fears, hurts, confusion, pain and - thank God - tears with you in and through the anointing of your priesthood . . .

I find 'Lily's' words echoed in those of Pope Francis when he celebrated Mass on Holy Thursday 2013 in Casal del Marmo Prison for Minors. He ended his homily with these words: Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: 'Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?'. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.

After the Mass Pope Francis met with the prisoners and said, Go forward, alright? And do not let yourselves be robbed of hope, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Understood? Always with hope. Go forward! Thank you

In his final greetings as he was leaving Pope Francis said, Now I leave. Thank you so much for your welcome. Pray for me and do not let yourselves be robbed of hope. Always go forward! Thank you so much! [Emphases mine.]

The following summer, at the end of a sabbatical, I was in that same parish again. I met up with 'Lily'. She told me that she didn't think she had long to live. Knowing something of her medical history I took her seriously and we had a very deep and faith-filled conversation about that. There was nothing morbid about it. We were facing a reality but with faith and hope in the Resurrection. Afterwards we had lunch together in a restaurant and our conversation was totally lighthearted.

That was the last time we met. 'Lily' died peacefully a few months later at the age of 29. I know from those who were with her at the time that she did so as one who had faithfully carried out her task in this world with her gaze fixed on heaven, to use the words of Pope Benedict above.

I learned from that experience that there are persons of deep faith who can be very fragile. I have seen that in others subsequently.

I also saw God's utter love. Why did I make that late night phone call? I can see the Lord's hand in that visit. And I know that I was the only person whom 'Lily' could totally confide in at that time. Somehow it has been easier to share the past month's conflicts, feelings, tears and hopes with you which have built up over the years than with anyone else.

Lent and Easter is a prolonged moment every year when Jesus the Risen Lord says to each of us what Pope Francis said three times to the young prisoners last Thursday: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope.


Through God's mercy nearly 40 years ago the same Risen Lord said to my friend 'Lily', Do not let yourself be robbed of hope - and she took him at his word.


'Lily' died peacefully the following year having received the Last Sacraments and ready to accept death at the age of 29. May she enjoy the fulness of the Resurrection.


The Bells of Notre-Dame de Paris, Easter 2017

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