I would like to start by greeting all of you. Happy Easter!
I have received various calls from you expressing concern about my well-being. Thank you so much for your love and care. I am doing well physically and spiritually. I believe God is always gracious to me.
I was lucky that a few days before the lockdown started a priest friend from the Philippines came to stay here in the presbytery. Monsignor Don Vito was due to be a supply priest at St. Mary’s, West Croydon, starting during Easter week. I really appreciate that in this period of isolation I have had some company in the house. Even better is that Monsignor Don Vito is not now going to move to St. Mary’s until the end of the quarantine period. The result is that I am not home alone. I have company, someone to celebrate Mass with and to say morning and evening prayer with every day.
I know that many of you attended Masses and Holy Week services online. But all of us will, I think, agree that our parish community is not the same without the actual participation of all of us together in the church. I assure you that throughout this troubled time I keep you all in my prayers, hoping that you will all be safe physically and nourished spiritually.
To be honest with you, I am heartbroken by the turn of events. Maundy Thursday is such an important time to celebrate the Mass and renew our commitment to the Eucharist. But of course we were all deprived of that right because of the virus. Good Friday was awful because no one was there to read the Passion narrative with us or take part in the Adoration of the Cross. I nearly cried when Monsignor Don Vito and I were celebrating the Easter Vigil service. Reading the passages from the Old Testament was overwhelming for me because the liturgy is meant to be celebrated with the faithful. Without your presence, everything seems to be odd and spiritually excruciating. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that in my life as a priest I would celebrate Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum devoid of any participation by the faithful. No priest has ever had any preparation for celebrating Holy Week alone. I am sure you must have felt the same way, celebrating Easter locked away in your homes. And of course none of us at the beginning of the year had any inkling that this would be happening. Yet we, as a Christian community, had no choice and we have to face this crisis with faith in the Risen Lord.
The question is how do we move on from here? I would like to call to mind the Passion narrative that we read on Good Friday. The journey of Jesus to Calvary is painful for all of us to imagine. But that is what I want you to see as a background to all the uncertainties that we face today. I can imagine the feelings of the followers of Jesus after witnessing everything that had happened to him. Obviously, they were not emotionally and spiritually prepared for the realities of crucifixion. No amount of anticipation could prepare anyone for the cruelty of the cross.
However, all these doubts and fears are extinguished by the excitement of the resurrection of Jesus. Using all our strength and pulling together we must look ahead with faith to our triumph over our present predicament. I know these things are easier said than done. But we have no reason to doubt because our faith in the Risen Lord is the best tool available for all of us to combat this difficult period.
Everyone is scared of death, those without faith believing that it is the end of the road. For us, as believers in Jesus Christ, death is nothing because Jesus has overcome death. The resurrection of Jesus has defeated death. Easter is such a significant time; a time for us to put our trust fully and wholeheartedly in the resurrection of Jesus. That’s what this current situation calls us to do. Faith knows no boundaries. I know during hard times it is very difficult to trust but this the best and safest thing to do at the moment. During the darkest time of Jesus’s Passion, no one realised what would happen after three days. Jesus might have mentioned resurrection to his followers but I do not think the disciples took the words of Jesus seriously. This explains why, after his death, they were all hiding in the locked room. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus unlocked the room. And it did not just unlock the room: it also unlocked the doors of their faith and empowered the disciples to become brave. The courage of the disciples is the same courage that we can now draw from the power of the resurrection of Jesus.
Our situation today is not so far from the dilemma of the disciples of Jesus after the crucifixion. The truth calls for all of us fully to trust Jesus. This is the time to submit everything to Jesus and empower Him to be the true God of our lives. I am sure many of us will have asked ourselves: what is the message of God to us in this pandemic? We have to admit that we have to behave better than we did. The challenge to us is to show our faith not just in our words but, more importantly, in our deeds. The disciples overcame all the odds and converted many to Jesus Christ – as a community they were able to defeat all the obstacles and to spread the faith. History, they say, tends to repeat itself. So applying the same moral principle to our present situation, the value and lesson of the Resurrection is a lot closer to our hearts now than ever before. This is the best spiritual attitude to develop at the moment – an attitude of abandonment to the will of God. God is telling us – and showing us the way how – to trust Him completely; to trust him just the way the disciples trusted Jesus despite the crucifixion. It isn’t easy. But it is the only sensible thing to do. God thirsts for our love. So let us respond to this challenge in the way God wants us to do.
The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus reminds us of the love of Jesus. He goes to all the trouble of walking with them and explaining the Scripture to help them understand the Resurrection. The story culminated with the breaking of the bread and this opened the eyes of faith of the disciples which eventually led to the recognition of the resurrection of Jesus. I suggest that we all go back to the sacred Scriptures during this period of lockdown and reconsider everything in the light of the resurrection of Jesus. I know we are all sad because we are unable to receive Jesus in the eucharist but Jesus is spiritually present in our lives even in the comfort of our homes.
As soon as the lockdown is over, I look forward to seeing you all together here again at St Columba’s, cherishing our reception of the body and blood of Christ who is purifying us through this humbling experience. I would like to invite you to offer this period of sorrow and distress to Our Lord and make it your way of sharing in Jesus’s
passion. I assure you that we shall soon be sharing in the victory and glory of the Risen Lord.
Once again, Happy Easter to everyone.