As you read this, you might well be thinking that these are words that I, or Animate, are offering the readership of the Pic. But as much as they are the sentiment we do offer in this Easter season, they are actually the first words of the recent Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father, Christus Vivit.
As many of you are aware, the Holy Father instituted a synod on youth and discernment, the fruit of which is Christus Vivit. While the letter is written to all ‘Christian young people’, the Holy Father also says that its messages are addressed to all the people of God. And reading through the exhortation, it seems to me that this letter is particularly appropriate for us in our own diocese at this time of renewal in the Easter season with our own Synod 2020 coming more into focus.
I am writing this the morning after the horrific fire that has destroyed the interior of Notre Dame in Paris: the Tuesday of Holy Week. Commentators this morning are focusing on the cross that is still visible on the sanctuary of the fire-ravaged cathedral. We are reminded that hope will always prevail: that Easter joy will be victorious.
This is certainly what the Holy Father reminds us in his letter, writing ‘that he is with us, and will never abandon us … that when we feel old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore strength and hope’ (CV1, 2).
I suppose there is always that temptation within most of us to ‘feel old’ with the trials of life. I remember at seminary that as the nights grew longer and the weather got colder we would often paraphrase St John Paul II and say that we are a Lenten people and ‘De Profundis’ is our cry. But, of course, we are not a Lenten people but an Easter people ‘redeemed by the precious blood of Christ’ (CV 122).
We are each challenged, in those moments when we feel like hope might be lost, to ‘keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified’ (CV 123) and see the hope that radiates from the cross.
For it is never too late to feel the hope of renewal stir within our hearts – ‘Youth is more than simply a period of time; it is a state of mind’ (CV 34) – and if we have lost our inner vitality, our dreams, our enthusiasm, our optimism and our generosity, Jesus stands before us as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection he urges us: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (CV 20).
The Easter message of rising shines through the whole document and illuminates our own lives: Christ is alive! It is a reminder that if we lose sight of this hope-filled message of new life ‘every other solution will prove inadequate and temporary … with Jesus, on the other hand, our hearts experience a security that is firmly rooted and enduring’ (CV 128).
Pope Francis uses a favourite quotation from his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’ (CV 129; cf Deus Caritas Est 1). To encounter the risen Lord is to be changed and made new and whole. It gives new direction and means we need never give into the fires of despair as the cross of Christ will always remain unscathed as our focal point.
The cross of Notre Dame seems to offer some hope this morning; but what of next week when the news cycle moves on?
To the Holy Father we must give people the reason for their hope over the noise of the world. Pope Francis gives the example of Ulysses who plugged his ears to avoid hearing the siren call that would take his ship to the rocks. But with the noise of the world so loud can stopping our ears be enough?
Instead, we can use the example of Orpheus who countered the sirens by singing an ‘an even more beautiful melody’ (CV 223). For us, this more beautiful melody is the proclamation of Christ, crucified and risen.
Dates for the diary:
Life and Soul – Praise and Worship before the Blessed Sacrament
30 April, Liverpool Hope University chapel (7-8pm)
21 May, St Joseph’s, Chorley (7-8pm)
Lourdes Departure Mass
7 July, Lowe House, St Helens (6.30pm)