Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19

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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

We may not recognize Jesus, but he is right there with us on the journey.

By Bishop Larry Silva
April 26, 2020

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu (private; live-streamed)]

It was a long, sad journey, filled with memories of hopes that had been dashed; replete with memories of life-giving encounters with Jesus they never thought would ever happen again.  We are on that journey right now.  It is a long and sad journey because many of us are not able to receive the sacraments, and even the hope we entertained that by May 1 all would be well has already been relegated to a memory.  Like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, we desperately and painfully miss being in the presence of the risen Lord.  Like them we have to learn to adjust to a new normal.

But this tricky Jesus, who apparently disguised himself for a couple of hours to these disciples who knew him very well, may just be walking along with us in a way we do not recognize.  Yes, the journey did end at the Eucharistic table, where their eyes were opened and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread, but during the journey itself, he was right there with them, though they did not recognize him.

Did not Jesus say that when we feed the hungry we actually feed him?  And during this time of the pandemic, I am so moved by the many people and organizations that are reaching out to make sure that everyone has the food they need.  Catholic Charities Hawaii, HOPE Services on the Big Island, our diocesan Office of Social Ministries, St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, the Kupuna Project, and many others are walking with Christ when they walk with the hungry and provide them food.  Yes, he may be a little hard to recognize, but he is truly there on the journey.

Did not Jesus commend those who care for the sick as actually caring for him?  There are so many doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides, technicians, chaplains, and others who are caring for the sick at this very moment, working long hours in dangerous conditions.  They may not recognize Jesus in these people who are in hospital gowns, with disheveled hair, and in such pain, but the One who gave himself over to suffering and death on the cross is on the journey with them.

Did not Jesus rejoice in those who visit prisoners, bringing them the good news of freedom?  There are women who feel imprisoned in situations of domestic violence, perhaps intensified during the lockdown, and who can be freed by the buddies of their husbands who encourage their brothers not to take their anger out on the women they love but to find other ways to express it less destructively.  Are there not teachers who try to unlock the shackles of ignorance and apathy every day in their students, and who are still doing so under very difficult circumstances by meeting with their students on-line?  We may not recognize Jesus in these situations, but we should not doubt that he is right there with them on the journey.

Members of the Body of Christ, the Church, are reaching out to others in whatever way they can: conducting on-line Bible studies, or youth and young adult meetings via Zoom or GoToMeeting; phoning those who live alone and are lonely to let them know they are still in communion with the Body of Christ; giving generously to charities which help those who are suffering economic setbacks in these very difficult times.  This may not look like Jesus walking with us, but do not our hearts burn with joy when we are on these kinds of journeys?

Yes, we all long for the day when we can sit at the table, and the Lord can once again take bread, bless it, break it, and give it to us in intimate and holy Communion; when we can recognize him more fully in the breaking of the bread.  Yet we must never think that he is not with us as we journey toward that day.  Yes, the journey may be long, and it may be sad.  But if we listen to the one who walks with us in the strangest of disguises, our hearts will burn within us even now as we recognize the one who walks along with us in our sufferings and who opens our hearts to be ready to meet him at the end of the journey.

It is amazing that these disciples, after encountering Jesus on a seven-mile walk, ran back, seven miles, in the dark, to Jerusalem to tell others of the Good News that not only did they see Jesus, but he was with them all along the way, even when they did not recognize him.  That, of course, is part of our journey, so that more and more people who only think they are on the long and hard journey of life can rejoice in the fullness of life because, through us, they have come to know and believe that Jesus is truly risen and is with us always!