The Gospel that we heard this afternoon is the Gospel that I proclaimed last night at the Easter Vigil here in St. Basil’s Church with three other priests present. It was a very different liturgy since the people and so much of what normally would happen were absent. What usually would have taken hours of preparation and coordination with those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, was done very quietly and without the anxiety that I experience before big liturgies. Throughout last night’s Mass, I would close my eyes, listen to the readings, and imagine what it would have been like—the church full of people with their lit candles, and the Elect and candidates who had been awaiting this life-changing moment: to receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.Due to COVID-19, their journey to those sacraments has been delayed. They will have to wait a bit longer, so let us support them by our prayers and encouragement as they prepare to encounter our Risen Lord in the sacraments and share more fully in the new life that he made possible with the Resurrection on that first Easter Sunday.
The Resurrection was quite the dramatic event—not so much in the earthquake and the rolling back of the stone, but in the fact that it changed the course of human history and the lives of those first disciples. They had to make sense of it all, first of all to really believe what Jesus had told them would happen—that he would indeed be raised. They would then have to figure out what this meant for their lives moving forward. With the Resurrection, a new hope entered the human reality; and even today 2,000 years later, we are still figuring out how it affects our lives. In the Resurrection, Jesus conquered death and showed us that any deaths that we encounter—physical or otherwise—don’t have to be dead ends. Caryll Houselander, who was quoted in Friday’s stations of the cross, said it this way:
When it seems that we have failed, that everything is over, and we are in the darkness of the tomb of Christ, then the angels will come and roll away the great heavy stone, and resurrection with Christ will come. (The Way of the Cross)
Having faith that this will actually happen is tested in our most challenging times, and this faith might waiver throughout our lives. Even those who walked with Jesus didn’t seem to believe all that he had told them. They doubted at times; they denied him at times. Why wouldn’t it be different with us? Our lives of faith are probably like those of the two Marys, who left the empty tomb with both fear and great joy. It’s not certain what that fear was, but Jesus upon meeting them first attempts to quell that fear. “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matt 28.10). Jesus wants them to go without fear and do what the angel had asked of them. He wants them to go and share the Good News of the Resurrection with others. That’s what Jesus asks of us. When people are isolated, lonely, maybe fearful because of how their life has changed due to COVID-19 or other situations, we are to live with joyful faith that others can see, a faith that allows us to trust in the new life to come, whatever it looks like, and to help others to believe that also.