The Hope of Easter Sunday Runners

On Easter morning, I can’t help but remember that this Lenten season began on an Ash Wednesday marked by unthinkable violence at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The image of a grieving Parkland mother with the ashes still visible on her forehead is something that will not easily escape my mind and my heart.

It’s always struck me that according to the Christian faith tradition, Jesus’ resurrected body was still marked by the wounds of the cross.

His resurrection wasn’t a reconstruction and a whitewashing of the past, but a tangible manifestation of God’s forward-looking redemption for the human race.

God’s Easter redemption turns the world upside down. It puts on notice every powerful leader on earth that their rule has an expiration date, because a new kingdom with a new king is breaking into our midst.

In this new kingdom, hierarchies are subverted, concentrated power is decentralized, and prodigal children are welcomed home.

In this new place of mercy, the last are first, the poor are blessed, and enemies are loved. Black lives matter here. Gay, lesbian, and transgender lives matter here; and so too do the lives of women, refugees, the imprisoned, the unborn, and anyone else who suffers dehumanization, exclusion, and injustice.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Two thousand years have domesticated and sanitized these strange and radical words.

The disciples’ first reactions to this news were remarkable. You can feel their excitement jump off every page of the New Testament.

They so badly wanted to share the impossible news that Jesus was raised from the dead and liberation for the human race was won. Mary Magdalene ran. Peter ran. John ran. Was everyone in the Gospel a sprinter?

That grieving mother and those Parkland students ran too. They ran to Tallahassee and Washington to speak up for the dignity of each and every human life.

For some in their flesh, and all in their hearts, the Parkland children carried the wounds of their Ash Wednesday misery, but their very presence reminded us that the ‘Easter Alleluia’ we sing today is both praise and protest.

It was a sign of redemption even in the midst of Lent.

Hope then isn’t a spiritual thing or a reflective exercise; it’s undeniably physical. It’s the thing of Easter Sunday runners.

Two thousand years later, the promise of Easter has not lost its power. The risen Jesus, then as now, invites us to live in this world as if it is somehow a different world.

Because in the end, it is.


Do We Wait in Hope?

Most of our lives are spent in what one might call Holy Saturday. On most days, we experience not the unbearable misery of Good Friday nor the immeasurable joy of Easter Sunday.

Like the disciples, we wait. We wait for things to improve at work. We wait to find the right person. We wait to get into school. We wait to get pregnant. We wait for the news from the doctor.

The great question is: how do we wait? Do we wait in terror and fear? Do we believe that nothing good will happen and that the deepest desires of our heart will not come true? Do we wait in passivity, believing the lie that fate will design our destiny and thus do nothing?

Or do we wait with hope? Are we like the prophets who “against all hope, hoped still”?

The one who has hope lives differently. They believe that, even in the worst of situations, even in the darkest times, God is at work.

Hope arises through suffering. It emerges most brightly in deprivation and darkness because it offers us a vision that is not limited to what is immediately at hand.

Whether we see it or not, hope is alive. It is alive in anyone who has suffered intense loss and kept moving, who has stepped forward to love another with no promise of a return, who has doubted the existence of God and yet prayed anyway, and who has endured suffering for the sake of another and actually found great strength in doing so.

Part of me wonders if it was hope that powered Jesus’s resurrection from the grave, but all of me knows that it is hope that fuels human redemption in people and communities every day.

Because in the end Easter redemption isn’t just first and foremost a historical event, but also a living reality that allows beauty to be born anew every day amidst the storms of history.


Why We Should Embrace Hope as We Enter 2018

Hope has eyes.

Hope sees the world differently and gives us new ground upon which to stand. It “gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations,” as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salvi. Hope is not blind; rather, it changes how we see. It does this not by causing us to avert our eyes from a difficult reality, but by drawing our eyes to it so that something different can reveal itself. Upon healing the man born blind, Jesus tells his opponents, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” As long as we believe that what we see is in fact all there is to see, we lose what is most vital: our openness to all that remains hidden. We lose sight of the fact that we all have major blind spots. Hope gives us eyes to see what is otherwise unseen. “In a short time the world will no longer see me,” Jesus tells his followers, “but you will see that I live, and you will live also.”

Hope arises through suffering.

Hope emerges most brightly in deprivation and darkness because it offers us a vision that is not limited to what is immediately at hand. Hope is the star of Bethlehem, most visible on the darkest day of the year. Benedict calls this hope “great”: “Certainly, in our many different sufferings and trials we always need the lesser and greater hopes too—a kind visit, the healing of internal and external wounds, a favorable resolution of a crisis, and so on. In our lesser trials these kinds of hope may even be sufficient. But in truly great trials, I need the certitude of that true, great hope.” He even proclaims that our very capacity to suffer “depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.” Hope allows us to find meaning in our suffering, to see that although God does not will our suffering, God is fully committed to creating good from it.

Hope is a way of living with others.

“The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope,” Benedict exhorts us. In hope, “the dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” Hope moves our feet. It is dynamic. It is not meant to be a mere idea; it is meant to be lived and it is meant to be given. Benedict XVI puts it this way: “Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.”


Christians Should Not Support Roy Moore’s Candidacy

On Fox News, I called on Christians to reject Roy Moore’s candidacy. I read Leigh Corfman’s detailed account. It’s too vivid to reject. I believe her. Innocent until proven guilty is the measure for a court of the law, not an election.

Remember that Jesus’ harshest words in the Bible are for those who would harm children.

Christians in Alabama must withdraw support for Moore. To do otherwise would be an affront to our faith and to our witness.

You can watch my full remarks here:

 


It Isn’t Pro-Life or Christian to Shame Pregnant Teens

There are a lot of ways you can describe the shaming and exclusion of a pregnant teenage woman, but you sure can’t call it either Christian or pro-life.

In our faith tradition, God himself choose to enter into the grittiness of human living through the courageous ‘yes’ of an unwed, pregnant teenager.

This young girl who was kicked out of her graduation for being pregnant is a hero. The Christian school who kicked her to the curb is the modern-day innkeeper who said to Mary “there’s no room in the inn for you.”

You can wax all you want about pro-life Christian values, but you can’t be pro-life and anti-woman. It doesn’t work.

And you can’t be pro-life and be a participant and protagonist in the culture of shaming and exclusion. It doesn’t work.

See my full remarks on Fox News:


Both the Left and the Right Should Defend Religious Freedom for Everyone

If the Democratic Party wants to start winning national elections again, it needs to communicate its values to people of faith.

If the Republican Party wants to be an honest broker, it must defend religious liberty—even when it hurts its ideological agenda.

At their best, the government and the faith community can work together to promote the common good.

See my full thoughts in this clip from Fox News:


Rend Your Hearts, Not Your Garments

“Rend your hearts, not your garments!” These are the challenging words of the prophet Joel that greeted Christians in churches around the world as they marked the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday.

Lent—too domesticated over time—is a radical ancient invitation to reject the globalization of superficiality that too often sullies our lives and our communities and to take up a new path that celebrates authentic encounter and encourages human and societal transformation.

It’s a 40-day journey right to the heart of who we are and who we long to be.

Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—shows us that life and redemption aren’t achieved through strength and power but by rejecting a privileged mentality and taking up the sufferings and dysfunction within our own lives and those of the entire human family.

Every person lost and broken wears the body of the Lord.

Rend your hearts, not your garments—artificial penance without true transformation.

Rend your hearts, not your garments—a formal and fulfilled fast which continues to keep us satisfied.

Rend your hearts, not your garments—superficial and egoistic prayer, which doesn’t reach the depth of our life to allow it to be touched by God.

Lent comes to us as a cry of truth and sure hope, which answers yes, it is possible not to put on makeup and draw plastic smiles as if nothing is happening.

Yes, it is possible that everything be made new and different because God continues to be “rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive,” and encourages us to begin again and again.

This Lent, we are again invited to undertake a paschal journey to new life, a journey that includes the cross and suffering, which will be uncomfortable but not sterile.

We are invited to admit that something is not right in ourselves, in society, and in the Church—to change, to turn around, to be converted.