II Sunday Easter April 19, 2020

So where are we today– almost at a Peak, levelling out, descending the peak?  The Trumpists declare the virus’ defeat.  They want their freedom back.  “Liberate Michigan.”

Andrew Cuomo declared Saturday morning that he has never seen the emotions of Americans running so high: anxious, frustrated, angry, distressed, depressed.

These were also the emotions of Jesus’ disciples and friends after never finding his body that they had buried and after hearing reports that some of them actually encountered Jesus, and then, he disappeared.

This last week, at daily masses, we have re-read all the stories about Jesus’ resurrection from all the various gospel traditions and the Acts of the Apostles.  If we don’t believe them, we must conclude, at least, that something extraordinary had happened and that Jesus appeared in various ways to individuals, small and large groups, in different places and that it was overpoweringly real.

Was it what they saw that impressed them or was it what they felt?  One of my spiritual mentors, a Sister Mary McGlone who prepares homily materials for Sunday masses, believes it was what they felt that brought them to understand that Jesus was — a new person altogether.

It seems that Jesus was recognized by mannerisms or a voice like from the past, and yet appeared totally different; in fact, standing right in front of people he could not be recognized, and then all of a sudden was, and vanished from their sight.

Sr. McGlone finds an insight that perhaps Jesus’ first words and repeated again in today’s story twice — “Peace be with you,” that his words brought an overwhelming feeling of his and the Father’s love, that something began to change in them, a new feeling of his presence that they had never felt before. 

We would like to feel that today; yes, we would.  Maybe some of you have begun to feel it already.

For us who have lived in the last century and in the first 20 years of this one, there is something going on in our world in these last several months– the inspiration of a higher meaning.

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, April 8, wrote that the virus is a test.  Quoting Viktor Frankl in writing about his own experience of the Holocaust in the mid 1940s, he reminds us, then as well as today, “that we do not get to choose our difficulties, but we do have the freedom to select our responses… we all have the option of asserting our own dignity, even to the end.

Frankl said, the columnist observes: meaning, (the meaning of our lives now,) comes from three things: the work we offer in times of crisis, the love we give, and our ability to display courage in the face of suffering.

There is a new introspection coming into the world, the columnist observes.  Everybody seems to be having deeper conversations and asking more fundamental questions, he suggests.  Are you ready to die?  If that were to happen, would you be content with the way you have lived?  What would you do if a loved one died?  Where are your God and other person resources?

What role do you play in this crisis?  What are you being called to do– how to serve?

“This particular plague hits us at the spots where we are weakest,” David Brooks writes.  “And exposes exactly those ills we had lazily come to tolerate.  We’re already a divided nation and the plague makes us distance from one another.  We define ourselves by our careers, and the plague threatens to sweep them away.  We’re a morally inarticulate culture, and now the moral questions apply.”

“The plague demands that we address our problems in ways we weren’t forced to before… and there’s a shift of values coming to the world… Everybody hungers for tighter bonds and deeper care.”

Where are you, right now today?  In the beginning of the Easter season, we are being called to a new introspection.  But what do I hear: “I feel restless, I am bored.  I am tired of doing nothing.  I wish that this was all over, I want to get on with my life.”

Perhaps, instead of complaining, and wanting the old world which is being taken away from us, we could begin to talk about a new normal that is not based on earning and spending money which affects how we relate and use people.

“That is hard for us to accept,” writes my spiritual mentor, Sr. McGlone.  “We want to earn our way.  We fool ourselves that we can handle our own failings and even judge others.”  John’s Gospel depicts our refusal to believe as barred doors and fear, and assures us – pointing to Thomas that there is no barrier that the Risen Christ cannot break through.  Why do we want to put up barriers?  To protect ourselves from being overwhelmed by grace, love and real life?  Today’s Thomas wants to feel that  it is really true, and so do we.  Jesus takes us at our word and invites us to more.

I want to leave you with a message and an invitation.  I received it in an Easter card sent to me by one of you.

Across the top first line was the word Peace in large letters, below followed by the words: “comes within the souls of people when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Mystery.”  And this center is everywhere, it is within each of us.

This was written by the Holy Man, Black Elk, a Lakota native American, who fought at Custer’s last stand, who later married an Indian woman, became baptized as a Catholic and died in 1950 at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  A cause for his canonization has begun.

What we need more, now, at this time, is a spirituality that takes us into the center of the Great Mystery, which is bigger than each one of us and all of us.

Within the great mystery, we find the courage to live the kind of life and love and hope that reveals the purpose of our life and its meaning.  We find also a wisdom that is clearer and deeper and more life-giving than we can make up for ourselves.  Then we will find our new future and our new way to live.

St. Paul describes in today’s second reading what has happened to us in Easter.  God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

We will find that new life and the new hope when we discover that the Great Mystery within each of us is greater than the mystery of the virus which is wreaking havoc with us.

May we be overwhelmed by God’s love!

*************************************************

Read more here about:

Sister Mary McGlone: https://www.ncronline.org/authors/mary-m-mcglone

Black Elk: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Elk

Viktor Frankl: https://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/04/world/dr-viktor-e-frankl-of-vienna-psychiatrist-of-the-search-for-meaning-dies-at-92.html

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