“Then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: ‘You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. Jesus, the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders and signs, which God worked through him in your midst…God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.’”
This happened on the day of Pentecost. This only happened because the apostles and those who were in the room that day received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that broke open the full understanding of who Jesus was and is.
Holy mother Church, in her great wisdom, wants us to understand fully the meaning of the resurrection and how the prophets and all the Scriptures reveal who Jesus is.
In the Easter season the Gospel readings follow a certain pattern. The run to the empty tomb is always the Gospel for Easter Sunday. The second Sunday we read the appearance of the risen Jesus to the apostles and to Thomas in the upper room. The third Sunday we always read one of the other well-known post-resurrection appearances: the road to Emmaus, the Easter evening appearance to the disciples, or the appearance to the apostles on the shore at the Sea of Galilee.
The four Sunday of Easter, the halfway point of the season, is always “Good Shepherd Sunday,” when John 10 is always read. The Gospels of the fifth, sixth, and seventh Sundays are always taken from the Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel chapter 13 where Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit and the Church.
These teachings were meant to prepare the apostles for the reception of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the age of the Church. Very appropriately, they lead us to the celebration of Pentecost, where we find Peter this morning in our first reading.
But this Sunday, April 26, 2020, we are not there yet. We are still at “that very day, the first day of the week,” the day that Jesus did what no human being had ever done: he rose from the dead!
The women, those first disciples who went to the tomb despondent, came away confused, afraid, and filled with incredulous stories. Then, Peter and John run to the tomb and find it empty. Confusion and chaos reign and also the beginning of belief, of what could this possibly mean?
Evidently on that night before Jesus comes to the upper room, where the door was locked, and appears to the apostles, two of Jesus’ disciples are walking away. They are leaving Jerusalem. They don’t want any part of it anymore. They are anxious and afraid, confused and desolate.
Their friends were hiding behind locked doors. Local authorities were treating them like a threat to the public. Their religious leaders were part of the problem. So the disciples did something definitive: They walked away from the life they had known.
[Begins to walk from the Ambo to the back of the church.]
They were downcast. They were conversing about all the things that had occurred. They were debating what it meant, trying to make sense of it all. Everything had unraveled. It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t what they expected. It wasn’t what they wanted.
The tomb was empty. But they knew that Jesus was dead. He was crucified, and with that, all their hopes were shattered, bled out with the last breath of Jesus on the cross.
[Crucifix during the pause, and back to the baptismal font.]
They were walking away from Jerusalem, the very place where Jesus walked to with determination, where just a week before Jesus was hailed with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Jerusalem the city of hope, was now the place of despair, chaos and confusion. “Let’s get the heck out of here as fast as we can.”
[Sits in a pew]
Too much pain. Too much sadness. Too many dashed hopes. Too much confusion. Too much up-ending of everything.
Is this where you have found yourself from time to time these past weeks of quarantine?
I have, and it’s been painful. I’ve been confused, anxious, angry, lonely, frightened, disoriented and quite honestly exhausted from this journey of not being able to go anywhere, of having to “stay home and stay safe.”
At times I have wanted to walk away from Jerusalem, to not face the empty pews and to have to face the camera, and not look at the “not real” people who are not present as before.
Have you wanted to walk away in some fashion these past weeks?
If so, let Jesus come and walk along with you just as he did on the road to Emmaus.
Then, respond to his question, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” Open up your heart to him. Tell Jesus what is on your heart and not just in your head. Pour out your heart to his Sacred Heart, his pierced heart from which water and blood flowed for you.
[Walks back to the Ambo]
Allow Jesus to walk with you. Allow Jesus to speak to you as you read Sacred Scripture by yourself, or with your wife and your children or grandchildren each day, even if it’s by Face Time or Zoom.
Allow Jesus to walk with you and speak to your heart as you open your heart to him, so that your heart can begin to learn anew; so that you can understand in light of Sacred Scripture the power and the presence of Jesus Christ in your life in and through the life of the Catholic Church through the Sacraments and her teaching.
This is painful for us now because we can’t celebrate the sacramental life of the Church in its fullness. We can’t yet come together physically. I can’t take the bread, bless it, break it and give to you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Though you enter into “spiritual communion,” I know you long to receive him fully.
We can’t baptize and confirm our elect. Our children can’t receive their first reconciliation and first Eucharist as we planned for them. We aren’t allowed to celebrate God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation like we used to. We can’t come to the chapel for Adoration. No wonder we feel bereft at times. The COVID-19 pandemic has swept away the illusions that we can ignore suffering and, ultimately, death itself.
So please, bring your heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let him bring meaning to this time.
Let him speak to you and open the Scriptures to you. Let him set your heart on fire, burning anew with love for him, for your biological family, for your faith family, for the Church and for the family of humanity, especially those who are suffering immensely because of this pandemic.
Let Jesus walk with you today and into these days of uncertainty that lay ahead. Let Jesus open the Scriptures to you. Let Jesus set your heart on fire with love of him so that you can proclaim in word and deed, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to us – yes to you and to me.”