It is a privilege and honor to celebrate Easter 2020 with all of you who are joined with us in prayer and faith, no matter where you are physically. In this unprecedented time, it may feel like Easter this year isn’t “real” because we cannot gather together as we are accustomed to, wearing our Easter best, coming together as families, greeting fellow believers, seeing, smelling, and hearing the beauty of the Church and the ritual of our liturgy. Not coming to mass, we also cannot receive the Risen Lord in the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Yet, Easter is here, for us, even in this time of pandemic. This year, more than ever, we need of the Risen Lord, but maybe the circumstances of this time bring this need into sharper focus.
As difficult as it might be, I ask all of you to do your very best, connected to fellow believers through the blessings of technology, try to enter the meaning of Easter. I am doing my best to feel the joy and hope of this celebration as well, even though I do not look out to see a church full of my brothers and sisters. May we all feel in the deepest recesses of our hearts our ability to encounter the living God. Even with the limitations we are experiencing this Easter, this encounter can still happen.
Through and in His resurrection, Christ offers us life that is more than any comfort, health, freedom, material blessing, or even human relationship that we can experience in this world. We know that the world as we know it will pass away. We know that we are all mortals. Yet, we still take so much for granted, the blessings that our God has freely gives us every day. In our second reading, St. Paul says that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning, the foretaste, the pattern of new life for those who have been baptized. This is a life that we look forward to, but don’t really fully understand now. The full reality of what is coming is now “hidden” from our sight.
Even though we look forward to the coming of eternal life, God’s life is at work in us now, if we desire it and are open to it. On the outside, so much has been taken away, it’s like we have lost our freedom. Yet, even with limited physical options, we can choose to live in the freedom of the children of God now. We offer up to the Risen Lord as a sacrifice of love what we may have “lost”: free movement, entertainment, financial security, trusted routines, the ability to gather with those we love in close physical contact, the ability to make plans for the near future. Some us fear for our health, and some of us have health issues. Some of us are grieving the loss of loved ones whose lives we cannot fully celebrate at this time. Like the women on Easter morning, we bring all of our sufferings and anxieties to the feet of the Risen Lord Jesus, as a way to offer Him homage.
In our own way, we can relate to the first witnesses to the Resurrected Lord were afraid: fear that Jesus was gone forever, fear that His promises would not be fulfilled, fear for their own safety, fear that everything they had begun to put their faith in was a lie, fear for the unknown future. Aware of this fear, both the angel and the Risen Jesus himself told the two Marys: “Do not be afraid!”. They would see much more than the limited experience of the moment. Jesus’ resurrection would penetrate their entire lives and give them the faith and courage to face all that the unknown future had in store for them. They and the eleven disciples would, in time, demonstrate a powerful conviction in proclaiming the Good News. Most of them would even be faithful to the point of giving their very lives for the truth of Jesus.
“Do not be afraid!”: We so welcome these words directed to us in this particular time. We want to believe that the Risen Lord will follow through on His promises to be with His beloved people in all things. This is the message that is conveyed to us on this Easter of 2020.
Do you realize that you are already a witness of the works of the Risen Lord? You have experienced His saving power in your life. We refuse to let this pandemic and all its effects take away our confidence, our memory of past blessings. We have so much to be thankful for. Gratitude for blessings already received is able to give us confidence in God’s blessings that are yet to come. Feel your gratitude on this Easter morning, and give this witness to others, the witness to which you have been commissioned through your baptism, through your faith, even as it is tested. This is the saving plan God prepared for His people from the creation of the world.
As we kneel before Jesus Him now, let us surrender our fears, frustrations, and powerlessness. Will we be ready to receive what He wishes to give us? The gift of Easter is here for us now, as we need it for this life and for eternity.