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Awaken to the Divine: A 5-Day Silent Retreat Guided by Paul Coutinho

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BEFORE THE CROSS | Faith brings confidence to face darkness

Naming and sharing with confidence our experience of the Lord is what the world needs in tough times

“Proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.” So says St. Paul to the Corinthians this week (1 Corinthians 11:26), in words we echo in the Mass. I think the world might need us to make that our daily discipline.

There’s a lot of ugliness in the world. And there’s a way in which all the ugliness is just different forms of dying: Some are physical, some are relational, some are psychological. What does God ask of us, and what does the world need from us, in the face of these different forms of dying? We’re asked, not to put a happy face on it, but to face every form of dying with a hope and a confidence rooted in faith.

That would be hard to do if we didn’t know that every dying contains the possibility of rising. But that’s exactly what faith teaches us. That faith is reinforced by remembering what Jesus showed us in His dying and rising; how all of salvation history pointed in that direction; and that the martyrs lived His dying and rising again in Church history. Faith, borne up by that remembering, makes it possible to face every darkness with confidence in the ultimate victory of Christ. That’s what the world needs from us.

Monday’s Gospel reinforces this, as does Tuesday’s, when Jesus overcomes physical death by saving the centurion’s slave and raising the widow of Nain’s son. Thursday’s Gospel reinforces this, when Jesus overcomes spiritual death by forgiving the sinful woman. Thursday’s feast reinforces it, as we celebrate the Korean martyrs Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and companions — who died to this world and rose to eternal life.

Perhaps the most important key to how we can give this witness to the world, however, comes in Thursday’s first reading. Drawing near to the end of First Corinthians, St. Paul is giving a list of all the people to whom the Lord has appeared: Peter, the Twelve, 500 brothers, James. He concludes by saying: “Last of all, as to one born abnormally, He appeared to me.”

Paul speaks with profound humility about himself, but utter confidence in the risen Christ. That’s what the world needs from us. So we must ask: How has the Lord appeared to me?

He appears to some people in extraordinary visions and to others in quiet prayer. Some people experience Him first and foremost in service, others most clearly in fellowship. He appears to us all in the Mass.

We experience the Lord in many ways. The key is for each of us to be able to name those, to be able to say, with St. Paul: “He has appeared to me.”

It’s only when we know that for ourselves — when we can name our experience of the risen Jesus — that we can offer the world what it truly needs in the face of darkness. Then we can say, with deepest conviction: “Yes, there’s dying here — of many different kinds. It’s real and it’s painful. But I can tell you: The dying isn’t the last word. I know there’s a resurrection, because Jesus has appeared to me.”

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