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Carry the Light of the Risen One

One of Pope Francis’s favorite distinctions is the difference between joy and mere happiness. This is something that’s good to carry with us into the Easter season. His example of Mary Magdalene points to a key aspect of joy: It often follows a time of suffering, of disappointment, of struggle overcome and transformed. If Mary hadn’t cared so much for Jesus, her sense of loss wouldn’t have been as deep, but neither would her joy at their reunion. One of the hallmarks of a true friend is someone who can accompany us through good times and bad, weeping and rejoicing as circumstances change. A genuine faith offers the same support. We are blessed if we have such friends, graced if we have such faith.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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God Shows Up When We Least Expect

The story of Emmaus carries a depth of feeling that resonates with us because we’ve all experienced some level of disappointed hopes and dreams in our lives. Dream jobs turn to daily drudgery. Failed relationships leave us brokenhearted. Illness and injury break our bodies and sometimes our spirits. If we’re in the midst of such a time, Easter alleluias can sound hollow to our ears. And yet, the Word of God can speak a word of hope and promise to our despair. The Bread of Life can fill an emptiness, a hunger, that gnaws at us. Sometimes all we have to do is show up. We have to make that much of an effort. Often we go with no expectations, almost no hope. And God surprises us with the right word, the right thought, a much-needed smile or hug from someone. The message of Easter is that God shows up when we least expect it: a voice in the garden calling our name, a stranger on the road, a tap on the shoulder, breakfast on the beach or dinner after a long day at work. Sometimes the alleluias are quiet, but no less heartfelt for all that.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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Seeing with New Eyes

Peter, James, John and the other disciples are going back to their fishing boats. We get the sense that they’ve given up on this life of proclaiming the Good News. They’re discouraged, they’re confused. They’ve seen the Risen Christ in the upper room but then he vanished again. It turns out the fishing isn’t all that great either. But they listened to the stranger on the beach telling them to try the other side of the boat. And Peter remembered the very beginning of his time with Jesus, when the novice told the experienced fisherman how to catch fish. He recognized the voice, the call, the inspiration. And, once again, his life was about to change. The death and resurrection of Jesus reminds us that God knows it’s never easy. The Risen Christ bore the wounds of the cross as a sign of that. Remember that he’s with us every step of the way, loving us, nudging us forward, showing us a new way to see.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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Christ Our Hope Has Risen

Sometimes our faith moves us outward with great joy and fervent hope. But sometimes we need to go within, to renew our strength and our courage in quiet times of prayer. Depending on the circumstances of our lives this year, we might not be feeling the exuberant joy we expect in this season of Easter. Illness, death, unemployment, depression, and other human realities don’t necessarily happen according to the liturgical year. But in a time when it seems the only constant is change, our faith—and even more, our hope—reminds us that God’s love will always be there for us.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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