Moment for Mission: Hope Springs Eternal

A message from the Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Rev. Kevin O'Brien, S.J.

A few years ago, over spring break, I brought a group of students to El Salvador. Guadalupe led our group from Georgetown to the wall on the edge of San Salvador’s central park. It looked very much like the Vietnam War Memorial on the National Mall – slabs of granite with etched names that were too numerous to count. Thirty-five thousand names, she told us, of the 75,000 civilians killed or “disappeared” during the Salvadoran civil war (1979 – 1992). Guadalupe found her husband’s name. He was a community organizer in their small village, an advocate for poor farmers. One night, a militia aligned with the government abducted him from their home, tortured him, and left his body on a hillside. Fearing for their lives, Guadalupe fled with her children to live in the hills.

Nearly three decades after her husband’s death, Guadalupe is a vocal proponent of human rights in her country. She brings countless visitors to the wall so that no one will forget what war did to her country.

I carry Guadalupe with me as I pray through Easter this year. For Christians, Easter is a season of hope, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is not simply a memorial of an event long past – or a celebration of a really good day for Jesus. Easter is about all of us, for all time.

The resurrection of Jesus echoes in the resurrections in our midst. Such risings declare that death, rancor, separation, suffering and sin do not have the last word. God does. This Divine Word speaks of everlasting love, justice, and peace.  Guadalupe’s life is such a resurrection, a beacon of hope to her country and to us.

The Christian Scriptures proclaim how Jesus died on the cross and was buried in a tomb by his friends. On the third day after his death, as the dawn of the first day of the week was breaking, Jesus’ disciples found the tomb empty. They would soon meet the risen Lord in different ways – in the garden near the tomb, in an upper room where they were hiding in fear, on the road leading away from Jerusalem, and on a seashore. The empty tomb was the first sign that God was up to something new, working a new creation.

Like those disciples meeting the dawn, we have all stared into our empty tombs and faced the darkness. Each in our own way, we carry some loss or grief, some pain or disappointment this year. We may face physical limitations, struggle with division among family or friends, worry about the future about finding true romantic love. We may despair over too much suffering and violence in the world, and too much rancor in political discourse.

The Easter story proclaims that beyond the shadows of Good Friday and the darkness of the tomb lies the glory of Easter morning. This promise of hope is shared by other faith traditions, though in different ways. The 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope, succinctly distilled the essence of this shared hope: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” We are made to hope, and so we look for signs everywhere.  We take our cue from the seasons. After winter, we enjoy warmer days, longer stretches of daylight, and flowers blooming everywhere. The world around us is Eastering. It says to us: “Hope!”

With Easter eyes, we can find hope in our lives if you want to. Savor Easter when you experience love again after the break-up of a relationship. Rejoice in Easter when you are forgiven for something you thought unforgiveable. Delight in Easter in the taste of a Thomas Sweet blend-in ice cream, Opening Day at your favorite baseball park, or in laughter among friends.

Easter is everywhere.

Resurrection is meant to be lived.  We are not meant to keep staring into empty tombs. In a world where there is too much despair, fear, pettiness, violence, division and poverty, we disciples of the dawn choose to bring hope. We know in our guts that there is something more – a more meaningful life, a more just and gentle world. We are left only to imagine that new life and new world and then share that dream with someone else.

Together, we meet the dawn with hope-filled hearts and ready hands and feet.

Rev. Kevin O'Brien, S.J.

Vice President for Mission and Ministry