I know there is a hunger out there, a hunger for the Eucharist, a hunger for being here at church, a hunger for the community we are missing. But part of me wonders a bit about where that is coming from. I mean, prior to a month ago, we were open every day of the week, and there were plenty of empty spaces. So what is it that makes people hunger for the Eucharist more now than when it was available? Or what makes us miss being together so much more now than when we could be?
Maybe our motives are grand ones. Perhaps, for those who have been away, they find they can’t get enough of the Word of God and his Real Presence in the Eucharist – I hope that’s the case! Or maybe we need to be together with the community in order for our faith to make sense and our life to be on track. Certainly weeks without that possibility might highlight how important that is and make us yearn to return to it. For some, maybe we know that our presence in the worshipping community isn’t just about us, but rather about all of us being together, that there would be no community without all of us present.
But maybe our motives aren’t quite so lofty. Maybe, at some level, we’re here because of fear. And these days, there’s plenty of fear to go around. Certainly we can agree there’s fear of contracting COVID-19, fear of losing jobs because of the downturn in the economy, fear that being sequestered in our homes highlights the brokenness of a family situation. That stuff is real, and there’s a lot of it out there. And then there are the usual fears. Fear that our lives aren’t going the way we’d like them to. Fear that family problems are not getting resolved. Fear that our jobs are unfulfilling or our relationships are in disarray. Fear that our lives are empty spiritually, and we don’t know where to find our Lord. Fear that missing Mass will lead us to hell. Fear that if we don’t get out we’ll be lonely. I think if we’re honest, there’s a little fear in all of us, and at some level, that fear wants us to be here.
And if you find that’s the case for you, you have ten patron saints locked up in that room. They too had a great deal of fear. Fear that they too might be led to the cross by the same people who took Jesus there. There was certainly some reality to that fear, and I think we can all understand it. But I also think it’s significant to realize that the Eleven, all of whom lived closely with Jesus for three years, were not yet able to overcome their fears and pursue the mission of Jesus. Instead, they gather in a locked room, mourning their friend, confused about the empty tomb and stories of his appearances, and fearful for their own lives. We whose lives are filled with fear right now definitely have the Apostles as our kindred spirits.
The truth is that, like the Apostles, it doesn’t matter why we want to be in Church today. The important thing is that at least we long for it. At least in our fear we did not hide away and refuse to be brought into the light. Because there are many who have left us, aren’t there? Many have had enough of church scandals and have decided to take their spiritual business elsewhere. Many have been hurt in all kinds of ways and have not found immediate healing in the Church. Many have been influenced by the allurements of the world and the false comforts of pop psychology and have given up on a religion that makes demands of them. Many have left us, but at least we are here, at least we have gathered, albeit in fear, albeit locked up in our own little rooms, but definitely in the path of our Lord who longs to be among us in our fear and to say, “Peace be with you.”
The peace that Jesus imparts is not just the absence of conflict in our lives. It is instead a real peace, a peace from the inside of us out. A peace that affects our body, mind and spirit. A peace that brings us into communion with one another and most especially with God for whom we were created and redeemed. The peace that the Ten had upon seeing their Risen Lord, the peace that Thomas had just one week later, is the same peace that our Risen Lord offers to all of us fearful disciples who gather together as a refuge against the storms and uncertainties of our own lives. That peace is a peace that invites us to reach out like Thomas did and touch our Lord as we receive his very Body and Blood in all his Divine Mercy.
That peace is not some passive greeting that rests upon us and goes no further. Whenever we are gifted with any blessing, it is never intended only for us. We who have been gifted and healed and transformed by the peace of our Risen Lord are called just like the Eleven to continue to write the story of Jesus so that others may see and believe. We now become the peace of Christ to reach out to a world that appears to be hopelessly un-peaceful, and in a very critical crossroads. We must extend that peace by reaching out to touch those who are sick, or poor, or lonely, or despairing, or doubtful, or fearful, or grieving, or fallen away. Our own presence in and among our loved ones, and in and among the world must be a presence that is rooted in the Risen Lord and steeped in his peace. Now more than ever. We must be the ones who help a doubting world to no longer be unbelieving but believe.
We have gathered today, albeit remotely, for all kinds of reasons. We may have tuned in here in doubt and fear, but as we approach our Lord in Spiritual Communion, as we yearn for the very Body and Blood of our Lord who invites us to reach out and touch him in all his brokenness and woundedness, as we go forth to glorify the Lord this day, may we do all that, not in doubt and fear, but instead in belief and peace.
Peace be with you.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!