Greetings and Happy Easter!
Part of the great mystery of our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter is the message that God has not given up on us; that God is present in our suffering and that triumph over suffering and death await us. It is a sign of hope. Easter is hope. Jesus’ story of life, death, and resurrection is the greatest story ever told and we celebrate this every year to bring hope to us in our suffering.
If I were Jesus, I would have made the greatest “I told you so” in the history of the world. I would have appeared to Pontius Pilate and said to him, “I am Jesus. I told you that I would rise from the dead. I have risen.” But Jesus didn’t do that because it is not all about him. Easter is the occasion of our salvation through Jesus. It is about His work in us, in our stories, our suffering, and our whole lives. It is about redeeming us, saving us, and restoring hope to the whole of mankind.
On this Easter, I bring you this message of hope. There is no doubt that there is a serious illness, suffering, and fear in our country and in the whole world. Christ suffered like this, too, in what He went through and, when He felt abandoned, he cried out “Father, why have you abandoned me” (Matt. 27:46; Mk 15:34). But all His suffering ultimately led to an empty tomb. This is the greatest sign of hope for us: hope in our present suffering and sickness in the land and in the whole world. In sickness and suffering, let’s remember that
there was an empty tomb!
Jesus’s followers were filled with fear the moment He was arrested. He was denied and left to suffer alone because of the fear that they might suffer similarly. When he died, they were not only grief-stricken but very much afraid. But do you know that they overcame their fear as soon as they realized that He has risen from dead? Their fear was turned into courage. And—once further edified through the fulfilled promise of sending His Spirit on Pentecost—this empowered them to take His message to all the ends of the earth. The message got to us because Jesus remained with them spiritually and kept them fortified through the many hardships they endured to proclaim the Good News of the risen Christ, even their own martyrdom.
My dear people of God, we are suffering and many of us are very much afraid of what is going on. We are afraid of the future and afraid of how long this will last. We are afraid of our financial situation and whether we or loved ones might succumb to this illness. Yes, we are suffering and fear so many things. But, the message from the Angel and Christ from the Easter Vigil Gospel is “do not be afraid” (M. 28:5, 10). Indeed, this phrase is one of the most repeated in all of scripture. So, let’s look at the empty tomb and see that He is truly risen and replace fear with the hope and courage to deal with the current situation. Let’s cast all our sickness, suffering, and fear of the unknown into the empty tomb.
About twenty thousand people have died in our country as a result of this coronavirus pandemic. Most of them died alone without their love ones at their bedside, a restriction put in place to avoid spreading this deadly disease. Some families are still quarantined as they mourn the death of their loved ones. Some are still sick. I received sad news that we lost a parishioner this past week as a result of this virus and some parishioners are sick at home and in hospitals. There is no doubt that this can make us fearful. It can make us cry out “Lord why have you abandoned us.” God has not abandoned us. God is suffering with us. He name is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” We commend all those who are sick into the healing hands of God. May they be healed “by his stripes” (Is 53:5b). To all those who have died of this pandemic, we cannot say that the coronavirus has won; since Christ has conquered death, we can courageously say that victory is ours. Christ purchased salvation for departed loved ones. May their suffering and fear be united with the suffering of Christ that they may also share His triumph over death. May they eternally rest with God in heaven.
My prayers and gratitude go out to all the healthcare professionals, all the nurses and doctors, first responders, police officers and all those who, in one way or another, are at the frontline of the fight against this deadly disease. We have so many nurses in our parish. To them and all healthcare workers and “frontliners,” especially in our parish: THANK YOU! You are our heroes. Please know that I pray for you every day.
My dear parishioners, our church buildings are closed but God’s face and heart are not closed. Though we are quarantined, God is not quarantined. And the Church, in her Mystical Body, in you and me, are the Church that matters in the world. We are living witnesses to the Resurrection like the first disciples were. So, while it is greatly unfortunate that we cannot gather together to celebrate this Easter, we remain united together in the Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, our own human spirits may be fortified and, together, we can conquer.
Moreover, as we are away from the physical church and physical presence at mass, it is more than ever a time to deepen our relationship with God. This is a time for us to trust in God. The Resurrection is proof of God’s kept promises. If God didn’t rise from dead, we would not be here as Christians and Catholics. The fact that he rose from dead, confirms who he is. He is our God and we can trust in Him!
My dear Americans, look to the motto of our country, “in God we trust.” In addition to keeping to our faith, it is time for us to go back to the words of our founding fathers and the principles to which our country is founded. I am confident that, with God, no matter what happens, we will get through this. Let’s be hopeful people because we are Resurrection people.
Once more, thank you, our parishioners, so much for what you have been to our parish. My special thanks to Fr. Benedict and all my staff for their hard work. Please know that we are all united together in prayers and let’s continue to pray for healing in our country and for victory in this war against this deadly disease. Always be assured of my prayers.
At your service and His,
Fr. Lawrence Onyegu