Happy Easter! Today, in churches throughout the world, people will gather to hear the ancient proclamation that Christ is risen. This is the day above all days that we rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation from sin and death.
It’s a funny thing about Easter. It’s a celebration of something that happened two thousand years ago, but we don’t celebrate it only as a historical event from the past. We say, “Christ is risen,” not “Christ has risen.” When we make this proclamation, we are celebrating the great news that the risen Jesus continues to save people every single day. We are celebrating his promise to be with each of us “always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And finally, we are celebrating his promise to come again in glory and bring us to be with him in heaven. So Easter is a celebration of the past, the present, and the future all at once.
This year, we want to focus our Easter edition on the gift of hope—a gift that is all about the future. We want to see how Jesus’ resurrection can fill us with hope. We want to see how his promises, his power, and his presence among us can convince us that we have a bright, hope-filled future ahead of us.
Past and Future Hope. Think about what it feels like when you are in a situation in which you feel there is no hope. You feel trapped. All the joy has been drained from your heart. The road ahead looks dark and frightening, and you are afraid to take the next steps forward.
Now think about what it feels like when you are filled with hope. The future looks bright and promising. You are eager to tackle whatever obstacles lie before you. You look back on your past with a sense of gratitude—both for all the good that you have experienced and for the challenges that have helped shape you.
In other words, when we are hopeful, we can see all the good ways that our past has shaped us. We are also more likely to see the Lord has been with with us, blessing us in the good times and carrying us through the dark times. But if we don’t feel much hope, we tend to dwell only on the negative aspects of our past and lose sight of God’s faithfulness and his promise to always be with us.
A Story of Hope. One of the best illustrations of this kind of hope is the story of Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). We all know the story. We know how Jesus met two disciples as they were walking toward Emmaus on Easter Sunday, but they didn’t recognize him. We know that the disciples were sad because Jesus had been crucified, and all their hopes had been dashed. They thought he was the Messiah, but now it seemed he was just another zealous rabbi.
As they walked together, Jesus explained how it had been part of God’s plan all along that the Messiah would die. He explained how Moses and the prophets had pointed to this plan and how the Messiah was destined to rise again from the dead. Jesus’ words were so compelling that the disciples invited him to dinner. As he blessed the bread, their eyes were opened, and they realized who he was. Amazed and excited, they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and the others.
On the way back, the disciples realized that their hearts had been burning within them as Jesus was speaking with them (Luke 24:32). Their hope was becoming rekindled as he explained their past to them in a new way. That hope began to shine more brightly as he showed them God’s glorious plans for their future. All that good news began to erase their sadness. Then, when Jesus blessed and broke the bread, they were restored. They were ready to follow him again.
It’s important to see that Jesus wasn’t just teaching these disciples on their journey. He was restoring their hope—and he did it by healing their memories. He helped them see the past through his eyes. He showed them how carefully and patiently God had worked to bring them to this point. He showed them that their hope in Jesus had not been in vain after all. By explaining the past, he opened up for them hope in the future.
Healed Memories, a Hopeful Vision. Like the Emmaus disciples, we all have events in the past that have left us feeling sad or abandoned or betrayed. The memories of these events can cast a cloud over our vision for the future. Some of these wounds may be minor and last only a day or so, but others can stay with us for years. Whether they are only brief, as they were for the Emmaus disciples, or long-lasting, these past wounds can affect us long after we have received them.
The Emmaus story shows us that no matter how bleak the past may seem, Jesus can help us. He can walk with us and listen as we pour out our hearts to him. He can heal our painful memories and so restore our hope.
If you want to experience this kind of healing, invite Jesus into your past and examine it with him. Did somebody hurt you in a way that has made you more anxious or fearful? Perhaps a wounded relationship has made you more cynical or resentful. Maybe a financial setback or a problem at work has set you on edge. Whatever it is, replay the event in your mind as best you can. But don’t do it alone. Picture Jesus with you as you watch it unfold. Imagine yourself taking his hand, and then tell him about why you are hurting. Tell him how it is still affecting you, and ask him to take away the pain.
Don’t worry if there are extended moments of silence. Just try your best to sit in the Lord’s presence and let him help you. Write down what you sense he is saying or doing. Maybe he is putting his arm around your shoulder and drawing you close. Maybe he is showing you how he was there with you, feeling your pain and praying to his Father for you. Maybe he is helping you forgive whoever hurt you.
Don’t worry also if you don’t feel better right away. It can take time to open our hearts enough to let Jesus in. Make it a regular part of your prayer if you think it will help. Over time, the pain of the past will begin to fade, and your heart will become lighter. You’ll begin to see that there is still reason to hope—because Jesus, the risen Lord, is with you and will never abandon you.
Easter Is Our Hope. Easter is all about hope. The message of Easter is that Jesus didn’t just die on the cross and then go back to heaven. He overcame sin, and then he came back to us. By appearing to Peter, Mary Magdalene, the Emmaus disciples, and many more, he gave us proof that he is still involved in our lives. He showed us that he still wants to heal us and help us follow him. He showed us that he has great hope for our future, and so should we.
It can be easy to find yourself on your own road to Emmaus, sometimes without even knowing how you got there. But you don’t have to stay there! Turn to Jesus and ask him to help you. See the signs of hope all around you. Spend just a few minutes with him in the way we described above. Take something from your past—big or small—and invite him in. Try this a few times this Easter season, and see if you find yourself feeling more lighthearted, more peaceful, and more hopeful.
At his first Easter Vigil Mass as the Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, . . . to remember the road we have traveled—this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future” (Easter Vigil Homily, March 30, 2013). Remember the past. See God’s hand in it. Look back on the road you have traveled, and ask Jesus to take away the sting of painful memories. The more we can do this, the greater sense of hope we will have for our future.
A Glorious Future. So let Jesus come to you this Easter season. Let him show you that your future can be just as glorious as his. Let him help you to face whatever challenges life has yet to throw at you. Believe that he is with you every step of the way, just as he was with the two Emmaus disciples.