"Peace be with you"
Originally posted in Facebook by Fr. Michael Cheong, FMVD
The Gospel of today shows the disciples gathered in the upper room with fear. Jesus enters in their midst and greets them with his peace, showing them his wounds. At the sight of this, the disciples are filled with joy. It is as if the wounds of Christ in his resurrected body were a sign of hope for all the wounds that are still found in the world. As Christians, we are called to contemplate these wounds like the disciples in order to find peace - peace not in the fact that there are no more problems and struggles in the world, but peace in the faith that Christ has assumed all these wounds in his own body and will bring them all to healing in his own time and ways.
As we come to the end of the octave, we are met with a liturgical season in the Cburch that is even longer than Lent - Easter. Have you ever asked yourself why there is a need for the season of Easter? Have we not pondered enough the cross and the sufferings of Christ up to Holy week? Why is there still a need for yet another special season?
True enough, for most people, Easter is a matter of one day. We greet each other "happy easter" on Easter Sunday and feel as if all the Church festivities have come to an end. And yet, it is not over. The celebration of the Resurrection has just begun.
Easter is a time to progress in the Christian life. On Easter Sunday or the vigil, we renewed our baptismal promises by renouncing Satan and sin and professing our faith in God. These coming 7 weeks of Easter till Pentecost, I propose that we ponder the meaning of this renewal by pondering on what we truly renounce and what we profess in the practice of our Christian lives. In the Catholic tradition, there are 7 capital sins that we renounce and 7 opposite virtues in which we can progress. In each week, I would like to ponder on each sin and its opposing virtue, so that we can make our Christian progress effecive and real.
This week, let us begin with pride, the root and mother of all sins. Pride is the most subtle of all the sins and we know that it will accompany us until our deathbeds, and yet it is interesting to recognize when we are taken by it and how to increasingly overcome it. According to Scriptures, pride is basically the refusal to listen. True listening leads to change and that is why Jesus was constantly reprimanding the Pharisees for refusing to listen. When we consider that we are better than others, we will not listen to them. When we consider that we know better than God, we stop listening to Him too. Everybody struggles with pride, since it is mixed with the search for self-worth and a dignified life. But what helps us to overcome it is to practice stopping ourselves in our quick critiques or conclusions and to try to listen.
The opposing virtue is no mystery - it is humility. Humility is actually the Christian way of discovering my own sense of dignity as a person. On one hand, it is recognizing what I am, "humus" or earth. From dust we have come, and to dust we shall return. On the other hand, it is to recognize that there is a God who loves this piece of earth infinitely. In other words, humility is intimately connected to faith. If I believe in a God that is supremely good, then I can learn to trust Him and entrust myself to Him. It would be difficult to submit myself to anyone for that matter, unless I feel known and loved by that person.
Jesus himself did not easily submit to his Passion, until He was convinced that the plan of the Father was greater and made a free and intelligent choice for love of God and for us. The cross is not a sign of the loss of freedom, but its fulfilment in divine Love. Let us try to ponder this mystery this week: Have I ever experienced that an act of humility on my part or of any other has led to the sense of true love and freedom?
Fr. Michael Cheong is a Singaporean missionary priest of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. His current assignment is in Rome, Italy.