May the grace and peace of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you and with all your loved ones! I miss you all terribly much, and I send you my own heartfelt love.
Our churches are as empty as Christ’s tomb was on that first Easter morn. We have all been living through the strangest and most disorienting global health crisis we have personally known. And the strangeness and disorientation may seem especially acute today to us, on this, the holiest, most glorious day of our liturgical year.
For all of our current turmoil and disquiet, imagine the confusion and incomprehension of the Apostles and disciples upon learning that the tomb was empty. We have had twenty centuries plus for theological reflection in order to come to grips with the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus; the men and women of that day were unceremoniously just thrust into the mystery, not possibly able to understand what was happening.
Socially distant, isolated, from each other, we don’t enjoy the intimate, easy friendship that contributes so beautifully to human flourishing. The technological mediums available to so many are poor, unsatisfying substitutes for seeing one another in the flesh. When Jesus was crucified almost all his friends scattered in all directions. We are uneasy and discomfited by our separation from family, friends, and fellow parishioners. Imagine how scared and alone each of those Apostles and disciples must have been, each running for his life here and there. Far enough away from the perceived danger, each stops momentarily, looks around, and does not see any faces he knows. One asks, “Where is everyone? Where are they?” Startled, he worries aloud, “I’m by myself! What do I do now? I’m at risk out here.”
Eventually, most drift – by hook and by crook – back to the upper room: the last place they had been together, the last place they had been with Jesus. And though they kept the door locked for fear of dying themselves, not everyone arrived at the same time. Some came and went; some had lodgings in Jerusalem of their own; where a few were was unknown to the majority gathered.
Mary Magdalen, maybe alone, went to the tomb on the first day of the week. Only Peter and John, alone among the Apostles, came to see what Magdalen was screaming about. On the evening of that first day of the week two somber disciples got away to Emmaus. And on that same evening, the Apostle Thomas wasn’t in the upper room with the others. Where was he? Was he still all on his own, hunkered down somewhere without support or confidence? Maybe we feel a little like Thomas could have felt. Uncertain where we go from here; afraid to risk being with others; thinking we might die. But Thomas eventually made it to the upper room and joined his friends there.
To each of these people, Jesus appeared: to Mary Magdalene, who thought him the gardener; to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, whose hearts burned within them as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, recognizing him in the breaking of the bread; to the Apostles gathered in the upper room: first without and then with Thomas.
May the risen Lord, Christ Jesus, appear in your homes and in your hearts this Easter Day, on this first day of the week. He appeared to individuals and to groups of people, there is every reason to believe and to hope that Jesus will manifest to you personally and to your family.
The day is coming when, as Thomas did, we will put our hands into Christ’s side and probe the nail marks in his hands, as we receive – once again – the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in Holy Communion.
Have a blessed Easter Sunday.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Mark S. Summers
Pastor, St. Peter Roman Catholic Church HIS HEART, OUR HOME