When the pastoral year began this past September, it was the first time since the onset of COVID that nearly everything seemed to have returned to normal. My calendar is the busiest it has been in the more than five years I have been in our diocese.
I am grateful for the activity, as it reflects positive impact, that we adapted to and made it through a difficult time. We are gathering for Mass, celebrating the sacraments as faith communities, reaching out to the poor in charity, and coming together in our various groups and organizations to carry out the mission of the Church.
I also find it challenging. Sometimes the workload is heavy and there is an increase in the amount of stress. But, free of the excuses that hindered our activity during the pandemic, I see this as an opportunity to grapple with the stress and complications that accompany a full schedule. We can confront those challenges with the energy and zeal that were present prior to COVID.
This is what the early hours of that Easter Day might have been like for Jesus’ disciples. They were still traumatized by our Lord’s condemnation and crucifixion; they were confused, no doubt asking the same questions we asked during the pandemic: How? Why? What do we do now?
Yet, consider what they experienced Easter Day. Following their discovery of the empty tomb, the women, on their way to tell the disciples, were met by Jesus. Later that day he walks to Emmaus with two of his disciples who do not recognize him until he ate with them, blessing and breaking the bread. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32).
That Easter night Jesus appeared to the apostles gathered in the locked Upper Room. He returned the following week when the doubting Thomas was among them. When he appeared to them again as they fished at the Sea of Tiberias, they finally recognized him.
These encounters with the Lord opened the potential of new life that was hard to grasp for the followers of Jesus. There was an excitement about it, but there was an unsettledness about it because now the work for which he had commissioned them had to take place; now they would have to carry his message to the world.
The apostles’ initial Holy Week experience was not unlike what we experienced during COVID, what we might still experience as we ask, “What’s next?” Our “next,” in our spiritual life, is the time between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. Let’s use this time to renew our appreciation of the new life that has been given to us because of Christ’s death and Resurrection.
It is a time for us to pray together, to integrate ourselves more fully into the life of Christ and holiness and draw strength from our faith communities. It is a time to accept our need for grace as we struggle with anxieties that come from expressing our faith in a world that might be hostile to Christ’s message.
This is what Jesus’ disciples experienced 2,000 years ago. In witnessing the Resurrection, they realized the potential for transforming the world with the Gospel. That same potential exists for us. Recognizing the dangers and the challenges of carrying out that mission, they, like us, asked, “How do we do it?”
Jesus provided the answer: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:26-27).
Take that answer to heart, enjoy the peace and blessings of this Easter season, and share them with all you meet!