The Church is (virtually) Full and the Tomb is Empty

The Lord is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!!!  Even though the situation with the pandemic, we are joyful because the Lord is risen. At the same time, we are sad because we were not able to be physically together celebrating the most important feast of the year for us Catholics/Christians: Easter. Mixed emotions are very human.  We can be glad and be sad at the same time. Like the disciples on their way to Emmaus, they were sad at the beginning but when the Lord appeared to them and after Jesus disappears during the braking of the bread they were rejoicing: “Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24, 32).  By the way, the Gospel of today: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/041520.cfm We are certainly united more than ever, spiritually, in prayer.  We are united with technology in the domestic church: our own houses. We do not know exactly when are we going back to normal but the real thing is that the Lord is resurrected and the Church is virtually full and the tomb is empty.

This Holy Week was special to me, not having the congregation physically present.  I did something different this year. I was able to connect with the universal Church by watching online all liturgies from Rome.   Like never before, I was listening attentively to the message of hope that Pope Francis delivered during the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.  https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-04/pope-francis-homily-easter-vigil-full-text.html How inspirational is this homily to me, not to mention the homily dedicated to priests on Holy Thursday that made me cry. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-04/pope-palm-sunday-homily-full-text.html I have meditated with those homilies several times.  Pope Francis quotes the words used by Jesus ‘courage’ and ‘do not be afraid’ (Mk 10:49).  Also, you can count how many times Francis uses the word HOPE in his Saturday homily. That is your homework.

Yes, we can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. For example, Holy Week was rainy but now we have sunny days. Even though it has been very difficult for the People of God and for us priests not to celebrate as we did year after year, we can rely on our resilience that includes a positive attitude. https://positivepsychology.com/resilience-skills/ It is interesting how our lives have changed since the pandemic hit our country and the global impact that this virus is causing.  I always look at the positive aspect of our faith.  This is time to pray more as a family.  I am reading more, I am meditating more, I am praying more, and I am contemplating more. (meaning practicing Lectio Divina). I invite you to the same if you have not started.

Look to Him and be Radiant: Lectio Divina Graphic Organizer 

During Lent and Holy Week, we walk the way of the cross with Jesus; we went up to Mount Calvary; we have seen the crucifixion of the Lord who with open arms is embracing us with his love. I have been reflecting all these days about how many of our parishioners are missing to come to Church. Also, I have noticed that now parishioners are “sitting” for the first time in the first rows.

I have good news in the midst of all the bad news associated with COVID-19.  Some people who forgot about God are thinking about coming back to our Catholic faith. A few weeks ago, I saw people praying in the garden of the Church, people I have never seen. The youth is asking me questions through e-mail and I am taking care of the spiritually afflicted with the use of technology.

Yes, the Church is full of gladness and the tomb is emptyWe can read more about the empty tomb in the Catechism of our Catholic Church (640) and, of course, more about the Lord’s resurrection:

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Lk 24:5-6  The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. (…) Nonetheless, the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection (…) The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”. (Jn 20:2, 6, 8)

In the same way, I want to share from our Catechism (643) how before the disciples were aware of the Resurrection of our Lord, they were in shock, demoralized and looking sad.  Right now, several people are experiencing feelings of anxiety and maybe depression because of unemployment, seclusion and social distance rules.

The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (“looking sad”) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an “idle tale”. Lk 24:11; cf. Mk 16:11,13.

When the disciples started believing in Christ’s resurrection they were able to get over their feelings. We are people of faith. If we are really disciples of Christ, we will be able to get over negative feelings.  There is hope by imagining the empty tomb and feeling the presence of the Lord even from the distance.  There is hope when we have Spiritual Communion. Again, the Catechism is clear about the empty tomb but is also clear about how we look forward to our own resurrection.  Then, we share in the Lord’s resurrection.

657 The empty tomb and the linen cloths lying there signify in themselves that by God’s power Christ’s body had escaped the bonds of death and corruption. They prepared the disciples to encounter the Risen Lord. 658 Christ, “the first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now by the justification of our souls (cf. Rom 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies (cf.: Rom 8:11).

Therefore, I highly recommend you reading the whole section about the resurrection in the Cathechism that is all about proclaiming our faith; (including all Catechism quotes cited in this article) https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a5p2.htm something we do every Sunday Mass is proclaiming in what we believe. Remember that we just renewed our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday.  What those promises mean for you?

Finally, I just want to share also some pictures of our parish representing the Lord’s resurrection. Throughout this moment of suffering and isolation, there is hope.  Just look at the sun shining behind the cross. 

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