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April 11, 2021
[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu (Confirmation & First Communion)]
Imagine the shock; the jaws dropped to the ground; the eyes bulging while the brain is trying to process what they are seeing but thus far know to be impossible; the pounding hearts that are jolted as if by lightning. I imagine these must have been the reactions of the apostles when Jesus suddenly came through the locked doors and stood right in front of them. Of course they had seen Jesus hundreds of times already. But they knew he was dead and were mourning his passing and trying to process what they would do now that their leader had been put to death. And there he was standing in front of them, as alive as alive could be. How could this be? People do not rise from the dead! Were they dreaming or fantasizing? Was he a ghost? All these thoughts must have instantly run through the disciples’ minds.
Their second thought may have been: “Brace yourselves. We are really in for it now! Almost all of us deserted him at his hour of greatest need. He has come back to haunt us, to scold us, and to tear into us, telling us how weak we were and how disloyal. But instead he says, “Peace be with you!” Their jaws drop even farther, and he says it again, “Peace be with you!” And then, as if this was not enough of a shock, he says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They expect his mouth to spew forth angry diatribes, but instead he breathes out the Holy Spirit and says, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” What in the world is happening here?
We are gathered here today, as we do every Sunday – and every day the Mass is celebrated – to welcome the risen Jesus into our midst, because he is truly present – body and blood, soul and divinity. We just heard him speak his words of peace to us as we listened to the Scriptures being proclaimed. Our friends who are to receive the sacrament of Confirmation today will have Jesus breathe his Holy Spirit onto them and send them out to be missionaries of his mercy and forgiveness.
Now, let us admit, this may not be a jaw-dropping, eye-bulging, heart throbbing moment for everyone, because Jesus’ presence is hidden under the forms of bread and wine -- very undramatic! Some may even consider it a little boring. But that very same Jesus who stunned his disciples by appearing to them risen from the dead is the Jesus who will come here today in this humble little church to give himself to you who are to receive him in Holy Communion for the first time. His presence will change your lives, as it did the lives of his first disciples. Communion with Jesus will bring you into communion with all the members of his Body, so that together we can be sent, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive others even as we have been forgiven ourselves.
Like Thomas, we may not believe what seems so unbelievable. We will not be able to touch the nail marks in the hands or put our hands into his side, but, as Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” What happened that first night of the resurrection is happening here today for these candidates. Jesus physically comes to them and gives them his peace. He sends them the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation. And he allows them to eat his flesh and drink his blood, because he wants to be that close to them. And he sends them out to share the good news of his undying love with all they meet.
Sometimes awesome things like this hit us like bolts of lightning. But in this case, Jesus comes more gently, more subtly – but he does come to feed us and nourish us for our mission. We pray that we will allow him to enter our locked hearts every Sunday of the year and even more often, so that he can amaze us with his love and the gift of peace that only he can give. And we pray that all of us will listen to the confidence Jesus places in us by sending us out to bring his loving message of mercy to all.