My dearest sisters and brothers in Christ.
The Gospels tell us that the risen Jesus meets people, like his disciples, locked in the house out of fear and in tears; people who, like the disciples on their way to Emmaus, had lost all hope in Him; people whom, like women who quickly exited the tomb in great fear but also with an element of joy, after receiving the news from an angel that Jesus had risen, and who, like Mary of Magdala, wept because she feared that her Lord has been taken away.
But the most surprising news in the Easter accounts of the Gospels is that the disciples did not recognise Jesus, with whom they had been just a few days before; that even, Mary of Magdala, mistook him for the keeper of the garden, where the tomb of Jesus is located, and just like the disciples, are upset and fearful, because they think they are facing a ghost.
In this situation Jesus, with great love and patience, helps his people to recognise Him as being resurrected: he gives loving and friendly words to His disciples “Peace be with you”, Jn 20:19; a word that brings hope into the heart of the disciples of Emmaus, because it helped them understand his death and which had extinguished all the hope that they had had; a word that helps them overcome their fears; a word that makes them recognise just, like Mary of Magdala, who had confused Him with someone else; a word that revives love and friendship within Peter who seemed irreparably compromised by what had happened in the courtyard of the High Priest after His arrest.
Jesus also makes gestures that express His desire to renew His acquaintance with His friends, such as the meal He had prepared for the gathered disciples, returning from an extraordinary fishing trip, thanks to Him «Come and eat», Jn 21:12; and His willingness to accept their invitation to stay with them, by the two disciples He met on the road to Emmaus “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”, Lk 24:29
Easter, which this year will be lived in an “unprecedented” manner finds many people in pain and sorrow for the loss of their loved ones, it is an even greater intense pain, because they did not have the opportunity to be close to them to give them a last gesture of love; this Easter finds many people anxious about their loved ones who are sick and many people who have to work for days without rest to assist the sick and help those that are lonely and helpless with a show of great generosity and dedication; He finds us all “forced” to stay in our homes, afraid of the viciousness and indiscriminate manner of a single yet prolific virus, we worry about our health and for our loved ones, anxious about a future which we know from now on will be different from the lives we had previously, we are unsure what it will hold for us in the future days to come; suffering because not only do we lack the warmth and companionship of our many relations, but, for many of us, above all, the loss of economic resources which guaranteed our serenity within our very existence . This year the risen Jesus will not meet us in our parishes or within our church communities, but He will come into our homes, where He will soothe the tears and pain, he will ward off our fears, renew our hopes and revive our faith.
Within our homes, the risen Christ will speak the words which will restore the serenity within our heart, opening new horizons of hope for our existence on this earth and for the people who have suffered and passed from this existence in such a dramatic way.
If it will not be possible to welcome the offer of His peace in our churches together or meet Him in the flesh and blood He gave for us, within the Eucharist, He assures us that He will come to our homes with His word offered in the book of holy scriptures, in prayer we offer together as a family; we will meet Him in the gestures that we express and with the care we have for our loved ones, in the gestures which many people these days generously give by caring for the sick and those that are lonely.
I like to imagine that the Risen One, as He had done with Mary of Magdala at his empty tomb, that He would also ask us why we are so sad and tearful, why are we so distressed. He would ask us not to because He cannot comprehend our reasons for our tears and our anguish, yet He also to give us the opportunity to tell Him about our loss and mourning, our fears and our hopes. Our Risen Lord will also call each of us by our name, with affection, because each of us, like Mary of Magdala, also have to recognise His presence and closeness to us, even during these very difficult and sometimes frightening times.
I further imagine that if someone among us, like Peter, confesses their sincere yet fragile fear and idleness toward the Lord, during this time of self isolation, the Lord will invite us, as he did with Peter, to continue along the road of love and friendship without any further fears.
Today it would seem embarrassing and inappropriate to wish someone a happy Easter, because the exchanges of this greeting are not simply trivial gestures, but are quite demanding. We must have good reasons whenever we formulate a wish which would count on a future that is not only desired, but also within all of our reach.
What happened that “first day after the Sabbath” over two thousand years ago between Jesus and His few disciples, encourages me to wish that your Easter this year will be a “good” and a “happy” one for everyone. I confidently ask the Lord to fulfil this wish for each and everyone of us.
With a fraternal embrace, my continued prayers for you and your families is extend to you my heartfelt Easter happiness and blessings
I am your brother in Christ
Fr. Ugo-Maria Erem.S.B (csr)