A Reason for Your Hope by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."
I saw a recent picture of one of my favorite professors in the seminary, Holy Cross Father Robert Zylla. By God's grace, nineteen years later, he is still helping form young men for the priesthood. It brought back memories of why I admire him so much. He is a very bright man, and he is a true gentleman. He has a very broad knowledge of the Church's teachings, yet you do not feel at all like he is talking down to you when he explains them to you. In fact, he is very gentle and encouraging when you engage him in conversation or ask him to clarify an issue from class.
This seminary professor has a way with explaining complicated issues of the Faith with amazing clarity, but also with abundant charity. As a result, he helped me come to understand, appreciate and love the Good News of Jesus that was entrusted to the Church to be cherished, safeguarded from error and proclaimed to the world. He inspired me to be a better teacher and preacher.
A related, recurring theme in the Sacred Scriptures throughout the Easter season is how the Apostles and early Christians bore witness to the risen Christ. That witness was offered through a remarkable balance of word and action. The early Church boldly proclaimed the Good News through a wide variety of actions: miraculous signs performed in the name of Christ, generous acts of charity, communal sharing of goods, celebrating the sacraments (most notably the "breaking of the bread") and a general way of life that was notably different from the world around them.
However, the Church also spread because the early Christians could not help but talk about the impact that the risen Christ had on their lives. When we encounter Christ and experience the life-changing grace that flows from Him, we cannot hold back on speaking God. Our all-powerful and all-loving God forgives us, brings us to the fullness of life, gives meaning to our lives and engages us in an intimate relationship that is meant to grow and endure for all eternity. The spread of our Christian faith in the world today requires the same kind of witness: people who are joyful, bold, relevant and charitable in their proclamation of the Kingdom.
The proclamation of the Gospel also requires that we understand our faith. St. Peter exhorts his followers: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness, reverence." Faith and reason go together. They are friends and allies. It is very important that we constantly strive to learn more about our faith. It is helpful to read and pray with the Scriptures every day. It is also important to read solid books that explain the faith with clarity. As Christians, we really need to keep nourishing our minds with the rich teachings and tradition of the Church in order to better appreciate it ourselves and to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope.
Father Zylla is a living example of what St. Peter was looking for among his followers. He is always ready to offer a clear explanation of our hope: and he is always quick to do it with gentleness and reverence.
The church in 2008 requires Christians, just as much as it did in the year 28, to bear witness to the risen Christ in word and deed. Of course, the example of our lives tends to speak the loudest. So, the authenticity of our Christian lives is the first priority. After that, witnessing to Christ is also done by joyfully, prudently and courageously speaking about Christ with gentleness and reverence for God and neighbor. May we be ever better prepared and willing to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope.
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