As we emerge from the sacrifice and penance of Lent, Tina Mayeux offers five ways to experience hope this Holy Week.
If your Lent has been like mine, it has been a season of darkness and dryness. Personal struggles, doubts, fear, discouragement, and dealing with the illness of my youngest sister are some of the challenges that have arisen on the journey through Lent, providing plenty of opportunity for built-in sacrifice and penance. Through the difficulties, however, the joyful theme of hope repeatedly emerged as the virtue to focus my attention on and embrace. I realized that I have been concentrating on the trials and hardships and taking my eyes off of Jesus and the hope of the Resurrection.
Everyone needs hope in order to survive the difficulties of life, but what do we place our hope in? Do we focus solely on earthly goals or solutions, or do we keep our eyes fixed on heaven as the ultimate source of our hope? The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s definition of Hope says it all: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1817) In other words, hope is elevating our gaze heavenward and lifting our eyes towards the source of all good, Jesus and the promise of heaven.
Our Lenten journey began with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads, along with a call to remember our mortality and to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Throughout these days of fasting, penance, and prayer, we were called to reflect upon the fragility of life, while at the same time growing in hope in the love and mercy of Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel. This balancing act is not always easy, especially when we are going through difficult times.
What are some ways we can maintain and grow in hope for the Kingdom of Heaven this Holy Week as we prepare to celebrate Easter?
Receive the Sacraments.
As we enter Holy Week and Easter approaches, we can continue to draw strength from Confession and Communion. Going to Confession frees us from the burden of sin and gives us a new optimism and a more hopeful outlook on life. Knowing that we have received God’s mercy and are in the state of grace can help us to feel better about life and feel more positive about the future. By attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist, our souls are fed and nourished with “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1) and we are prepared to celebrate the Church’s greatest feast, Easter.
Pray the Psalms.
At the advice of a spiritual director, I have recently begun praying Psalm 91 each night before going to bed for encouragement. This psalm, along with many others, speaks of the protection and consolation of God. The Psalms meet us where we are in our times of difficulty. They soothe and encourage us on our journey and give us hope.
Having children provides countless opportunities to focus our attention on serving, rather than remaining fixed in discouragement and worry. We can also find other opportunities in our church or community to reach out to our neighbors in need in service when we are facing difficulties. Helping others takes our attention off of our own problems and we receive the joy of knowing that we are being the hands of Christ to those around us.
Make a gratitude list.
Many mental health professionals recommend this exercise to increase feelings of happiness and contentment and to ward off depression and despair. When we list and reflect on the blessings in our lives, we are able to experience positive feelings about our current situation and hope for our future.
Remember Easter joy.
This is Holy Week and it is the most important week of the Church year! If we immerse ourselves in the remembrance and celebration of the Easter Triduum with our families, we will surely experience a renewed joy in Jesus, for He is our Hope! Easter Sunday is not the end of the story, however, since the Church will celebrate for seven weeks until Pentecost. We can continue to feast and find hope in the Resurrection of Jesus during this beautiful season of rejoicing!
Copyright 2022 Christina Mayeux
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