Here we are at the beginning of the Octave of Easter. I don’t know about your Easter festivities but ours was vastly different than we had expected. I still bought Easter Lilies, but sadly no traditional See’s Chocolate Bunnies—a family tradition if you live in California. Things feel very surreal when families are apart, and you send air kisses at your young grandchildren through the windows of their home.
Nothing feels the same and I wonder if that was the case for the followers of Jesus on the first Easter Sunday morning? Afraid of the authorities, they too, were safer-at-home. Yet, from our lens, we know that THIS day dawned like no other in the history of the world. Death had been conquered and Resurrection had taken place. Imagine the joy of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they tried to rush back to tell the disciples, holding their joy. They were the first to hear and see Jesus post-resurrection. Have you ever held a joyful secret bursting to share your news, knowing that what you have to share would change everything?
Today is no different. If we look at this text through the Christianity lens, unfortunately, we are unable at this time to live into this joy. To gather with our faith community and family sharing the joy of resurrection. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. Exiled from our places of worship, I am reminded of the words of Psalm 137 as the Israelites struggled to “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.” (137:4)
Today’s first reading offers us much consolation and I wonder, how did Peter get to this point? He who denied Jesus three times is now proclaiming his Resurrection and offers stern words for “children of Israel;” In spite of the “priests and the elders” trying to shut them down as we read in the Gospel. His use of Psalm 16 is a beautiful gift to us today in our Responsorial Psalm, “…..with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” (16:8) This part of the Book of Acts is following Pentecost, and Peter has already received the Holy Spirit. Peter is proof that the Spirit is alive in him and he will not be silenced by anyone. His transformation and courage offer us hope today. We remember the gifts of the Spirit that have been shared with each of us, the gift of Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude/Courage, Piety and, Fear of the Lord.
As Christians, we are called to find the seeds of resurrection. Even within this seeming night of COVID-19. Can you notice those seeds? I love this quote by author Robert Wicks, “If we remain sensitive to the presence of God in faith and in prayer, and in the darkness of confusion and suffering, the darkness will teach us, it will become (new) light.” (Crossing the Desert. p.42.)
May our world be healed; may we learn from this time of exile, may we remember the words of Jesus as he greets his followers, “Peace be with you” and may God hold us all in the palm of his hand. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.