This reflection is prompted by John 20:1-9, the reading for Easter Sunday.

I love Easter mornings. I find it a very consoling time after the frenzy of retreat-giving during Holy Week every year. I’ve been giving a Lenten retreat every year for the past twelve years–both face-to-face and online–because, among other reasons, I need it, and it’s good for my soul.

This morning I caught the moon lingering beyond sunrise, and it was a marvel to see how brightly it shone amidst the daylight.

The lingering moon captures what for me is this year’s Easter spirit. Without fully realizing it, I’ve been in some kind of funk the past weeks. I’ve been running around doing stuff, with all sorts of deadlines to catch, but I’ve also been running on empty. Because of all the things that seem to be going wrong in the world, I’ve allowed some kind of skepticism to fester inside me and to gnaw at me. I didn’t immediately detect it because it was subtle: I wasn’t feeling particularly angry, sad, or afraid–just indifferent. Like I could care less.

It wasn’t until I started gathering my thoughts and preparing (read: cramming) for my Holy Week retreat that I realized what had been going on: I was losing hope. Losing hope in the world, losing hope in the human race in general, and–I am both embarrassed and horrified to admit as I recognize it now–losing hope even in God! Again there was no strong feeling of anger, sadness, or fear; just a resigned suspicion that maybe things will simply be allowed to go more wrong.

The great thing about giving retreats, however, is that you need to pray harder than usual and get in touch with your deeper self. My experience has been that I usually end up preaching to myself. I am drawn to speaking about the very ideas that I myself need to hear. And so for the third day of this year’s retreat, without planning on it, I found myself giving voice to what I needed most to hear from the Lord: Don’t give up just yet. Exhume those half-buried hopes and dreams, and let the Lord resurrect them!

When I asked “How? How am I supposed to do that?” the simple answer came to me: “Just keep getting up and showing up!” God knows–well, He knew!–I so needed to hear that, and based on some retreatants’ feedback, so did they.

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver wrote: “Let me keep company always with those who say, ‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment–and bow their heads.”

May I always choose to experience this astonishment and reverence, come hell or high water, and share it with others.

So this Easter morning, I have decided to keep on hoping–even if it means often hoping against hope. The Lord is risen–and every single day He invites me to rise with Him.

Let me end by sharing with you the song which kept playing in my head last night and which kept me from falling asleep (!). The source of the LSS is the song I used for the Easter Sunday module of this year’s retreat, and it’s an anthem that really does capture this year’s Easter spirit for me. I hope it also inspires you to keep hoping and rising with the Lord.

“Rise Up” performed by Andra Day


“….. I usually end up preaching to myself. I am drawn to speaking about the very ideas that I myself need to hear. ”

This resonated with me like someone was yelling it to my ear.
Thank u for this Fr J, it felt like i was searching endlessly in a dark room and someone switched on the light.

Thank u Jesus. Happy Resurrection everybody

This year, I’ve not been able to experience the Easter joy. Instead, I’ve been feeling empty, and perhaps desolate since yesterday. In fact, I find myself questioning the significance of the empty tomb and whether I believe in Jesus’ resurrection to begin with. Because I never had these “doubts” before, I’m afraid that something is not quite right. But a very small voice seems to be telling me that this was probably how the disciples and friends of Jesus were feeling then. Not that it’s wrong or that it represents a lack of faith, just that it’s human. As much as it is uncomfortable, I will try to sit with these emotions. If anything, I’m having to dig deep to find/sense Jesus’ presence in his absence (if this makes sense)…

A blessed Easter to you, Fr Johnny and all in this community.

Thank you for sharing. It’s comforting to know that feeling empty does not invalidate our faith. That it is a human thing. That what matters is that our sense of letting Jesus fill in the emptiness. happy easter!

Let this Easter become a new spring of hope and renewal for all of us. Never give up on hope… that same hope that Jesus fought for so that it would not be extinguished by indifference, doubt, and pain. This hope that emanates from the wounds of our Resurrected Lord is our true source of new life and renewal for our world.

Thank you Fr J and your team for the prayerful and reflective 3-day online retreat. May you continue to be God’s messengers of hope today and always.

I have an incurable cancer, and have been through a lot of treatments the past years. Most of the time, I just feel so tired. But the Lord asks me to RISE UP each day — to keep on GETTING UP and SHOWING UP, especially for my young daughter and my husband who need me. I am still alive; and as long as I am still here, I will live my life and share my love in the best way I possibly can. When I fall short and when there are days wherein I don’t feel God’s presence or hear His voice, I will look back on these beautiful 3 days and relish His words, His actions, His assurances of His unconditional love, as well as His challenge for me to rise up through Him, with Him, and in Him.

Thank you, Fr. Johnny, for allowing our Lord to speak through you, and for using your gifts to articulate the disturbance or sense of disquiet within us so we can see and understand it better and begin again our journey with God.

Always beginning again…

Such is the audacity of HOPE.

My prayers for you Fr. Johnny – may Jesus contunue to bless you and encourage You – as you are a blessing to us who are lost in indifference. Thank you for “showing up” every Holy Week. Your online retreat gives me a “Holy Space” to commemorate the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the midst of the “vacation mode” among the rest of the family.
God bless you and the rest of the Jesuit community.

We share the same sentiments, EXACTLY the same sentiments, Fr. Johnny. Thank you for articulating them for me and for many of us through this retreat. Thank you for being the Risen Lord’s prophet to remind is to CHOOSE HOPE. God bless you an infinite-fold!

Let’s empty ourselves of negative, hurtful thoughts. It’s Easter. See the lingering moon? Even if it is still there, the sun, the sun is about to rise up. How did Simon and Garfunkel put it: Let the sunshine drop all its petals on [us]!
Happy Easter to all.

Dear Jesus,

I am a tired, restless soul that keeps losing hope and sometimes faith as I go through everyday, making the ordinary days pass by without being mindful of where I am going. I became ungrateful and entitled.

I realised how abandoned, tired and anguished You must have felt at the Garden of Gethsemane, just like me. Yet You kept praying ‘Father, let Your will be done’. Help me Jesus, to pray and have faith as You did, to ‘keep getting up and showing up’, to find joy and grace when things are not going my way.

Thank you for always meeting me where I am. Today you ask me to not give up because I know You will never given up on me, no matter how messed up I am.

Thank you so much, Father J. I met Jesus here.

Thank you Fr J, for just showing up. This past online retreat took me to places in my soul that needed attention, healing, mending… like you, I have started to become indifferent. Because it’s less painful than all out disgust, hate, despair. Just a steady indifference is enough. But it has sucked me dry to the bone too.

If I were to be completely honest, this weekend was just a turning a corner…I’m still feeling lost, I’m still feeling tired. But what I am NOT feeling is hopeless. And for that, God bless you and thank you once again.

You are a blessing and a gift to many people, Father Johnny. Thank you for choosing hope and for continuing to choose to hope with the Lord… and with us.

I already heard the message…and yet the same question… how? Thank you Fr for reminding me… to continue to have faith… continue to hope… and to continue to love. God bless you Fr J!

Thank you so much, Fr. Johnny for conducting this annual retreat. I have shared it with some friends and they appreciate it too.
It’s true, I have been asking questions myself — so much anger , bitterness and hatred linger these days. But we always have to be reminded of gratitude and hope in the Almighty . Happy Easter, Fr. Johnny!

During Easter Mass when the priest vigorously sprinkled holy water, the people laughed when the holy water hit them. I laughed too. It was a Happy Easter moment. 🙂

Thank you, Fr Johnny! Thank you for helping me to press pause and catch that glimmer of hope and light. Happy Easter ??

So true FR Johnny. And note the subtle temptation trying to keep us listless and without hope and purpose. Let’s all pray for each other Not to loose hope and keep focused on Christ who gave himself up to redeem us from sin and what ever form it takes. Thank you Fr Johnny and HAPPY EASTER!

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