Homily – Fr. Anton – Jesus draws near – even in quarantine

Luke 24:13-35

This was one Passover they would never forget.
The chief priests and rulers were gloating in their victory.
Their plotting and politicking, their false witnesses and bribery –  had all paid off!
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” it is written.
Well, He had failed their big test:  “Come down off the Cross and we will believe!”
They had done the necessary thing:  They got rid of Him!
With Him gone, the people would soon forget        Him and His miracle-magic.
They’re rabble anyway, with no  understanding  that it’s better for  one man to die than a whole nation should perish.  
So as the day finally ended,     they were thinking as men think:
it was finished, it was time for a good night’s sleep, a rest much needed after all their labors.
The day after the Sabbath,  in the early hours of the morning, while they were still sleeping,
they had no reason to suspect, or in their wildest dreams imagine,
that  Jesus was ALIVE!    Walking around in the burial  garden!
Walking ALIVE in the morning mist, speaking with women who had come to the tomb,
giving them a mission, which they ran and reported to his disciples.
All this while they were sleeping, confident  they had won.
Neither would they know, that near day’s end, He walked up  to two of his disciples on
the road back into the country.   They had been going along slowly,  downcast,  numb
with despair,       but after He met up with them,  whatever He said to them
gave them  energy to nearly run the seven miles back to Jerusalem in the darkening night,
where they found  His chosen Eleven together inside a locked room.
The two of them were still completing their report, when Jesus Himself suddenly stood there and said: “Peace be with you,”    showing them the wounds in His hands and His feet.
    “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
As further  proof that He was alive and His body was real,  He took a piece of broiled fish and ate it in front of them.    After that,   He continued to appear in private  to small groups of the most anguished and discouraged followers.
Once their hope was restored, they went out to spread the good news, one person to another spreading  hope.  It started low, increased in volume, it spread,  until all Jerusalem had heard the report.    
But there’s more to the story.
As events of the Covid-19 began to unroll last year,
little did we suspect      it would carry over into 2020,
that Easter 2020 would be the Easter we will never forget.
As the early months of the virus unfolded,   as more people got sick …
prime ministers, the rich and powerful, doctors and priests among the infected …
anxiousness and fear settled into all our hearts.
Hospitals were full, Doctors  overwhelmed, no one in school,
churches  closed and as April approached, the question arose:
“What’ll happen to Easter this year?”
With people hiding in their homes, there was no reason for new clothes, 
no stores to sell them anyway…
there’d be no Easter Bonnets or Easter Parades or Easter Egg Hunts.
Worst of all, no church services.
The world was preoccupied with  masks and  tests.            
The enemies of religion were crowing:
Look at the empty churches, empty collection plates …
This is the beginning of their end.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, bleak days came and went, filled with fear of the unknown.
The world woke on Sunday to find nothing had changed, the statistics even a little worse.
        Yet …  the virus hadn’t stopped Easter from coming!
    All over the world, they were celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
The virus may have closed their churches, but it opened up their homes to faith.
They live-streamed, they  you-tubed, they prayed their beads together …
            surprising moments … intimate … spiritually uplifting. …
        as  they talked to their Lord in privacy …
In the Easter that came in the midst of a quarantine, we’ll never know how many times
       Jesus came and drew near to those little groups, saying:
     “Peace be with you!  It is I!  Do not be afraid!”
    and how many times they reached out to touch their Risen Lord.
The story isn’t over yet.  
The Churches are empty… but so is the Tomb!
Christ continues to appear to us and walk with us on the road,
encouraging us,  sending us out on a mission:
Go, tell my brothers, share with one or two who need hope … 
Tell the others:  Yes, Christ is truly Risen …  He is  Victor  over death and  doubt and  gloom!
Tragically,  Easter 2020 will go down as a time of dreadful suffering and tears.
But our prayer is, that with God’s grace, it will also be the year
     we found faith and hope from the Lord’s Resurrection,
when we saw the church was more than bricks or a building …
        it was people with hearts burning within them reaching out to touch  their Lord …
…  2020 .. The Easter that came just the same…. the Easter of our survival …
         but more than  that…..   the Easter of our Faith Revival!!!
– Thanks to an inspiration from   How the Virus Stole Easter    by Kristi Bothur