I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis
Bottom line: We celebrate today - the central event of our faith, the center of human history...If one day you wake up standing before Jesus, you will at least want to say you honestly examined the evidence.
Tonight we celebrate the Easter Vigil in midst of a worldwide pandemic. We actually had the first U.S. case right here in Snohomish County back in February. Since then this county has had 62 deaths and about 1,800 cases. As far as I know, none from St. Mary of the Valley parishioners. If you know a parishioner diagnosed with COVID-19, let us know in the comments and we will pray for that person at our Easter Masses. I do know of two relatives of parishioners who have died, as well as other relatives diagnosed with the virus.
The pandemic hit at the beginning of Lent and now seems to be leveling off. Thanks be to God we did not have to use the 250-bed field hospital set up in Seattle. But I want you to know there is one field hospital that we will never take down - St. Mary of the Valley parish! We are offering with the sacraments of healing to those wounded by sin. To the dying we offer the comfort of "last rites" - Communion as Viaticum, food for the journey, and final commendation including Apostolic Pardon for the dying.
Holy Week - as Pope Francis points out - is about God coming to our rescue. On Palm Sunday the pope said, God saves us by serving us. This evening we arrive at the climax of Holy Week. We watch and wait at the tomb of Jesus. As we shall see, the tomb is empty. Jesus has triumphed over sin, Satan and death itself. We celebrate this victory with the Service of Light and extended readings from the Bible. We will renew our baptism vows, but unfortunately, we have no baptisms. I am hoping we will celebrate baptisms on Pentecost Sunday - May 31. At the conclusion of tonight's vigil we will have the Holy Sacrifice. I invite you to participate even from a distance. At Communion time I will receive and invite you to make a Spiritual Communion.
Like many of you, I long for the day we can gather in this church and I can give Communion to each of you. Meanwhile, as I mentioned on Holy Thursday, I have strange dreams. I dreamed about having a parking lot Mass as they have done in other places. I've dream about using our wonderful field for an outdoor Mass - for youth, young adults and young families. Perhaps my craziest dream is to deliver to each family a package like this. (hold up) It contains the Word Among Us with the readings for each day between now and Pentecost. Most important it has a pyx - for enough Hosts for a family. After doing the Scripture readings, they can kneel in adoration, then the dad would give Communion to his wife and child. It would be like the Hebrew people who have a Passover lamb for each family. We know Jesus is the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of us humans.
While I would love to deliver Communion to every parish family, best of all will be when we can begin to gather in this church. It may not happen all at once. Vulnerable people may keep isolated and we will continue bringing Communion to them in a safe manner. We will probably maintain some social distancing - no hugs, no handshakes, no holding hands. I've joked that this pandemic has turned us all into Norwegians. In the Norwegian family and Scandinavian community I grew up in, we never hugged. I only learned that to hug when I started working with Latinos. Now even the Latinos have become Norwegians!
Worse things can happen of course. But I want you to know that even if we must limit physical expressions, as Christians we possess the deepest unity - the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist. It's not just spiritual; it's physical or material. The physical union begins now and if we stay in the state of grace, that physical union will continue after death.
We know this because of what we celebrate today - the central event of our faith, the center of human history: the Resurrection of Jesus. I want to encourage you to read - or re-read - the Case for Jesus by Dr. Brant Pitre. The subtitle says says "the biblical and historical evidence for Christ". You can order it online. By now most of us are pretty adept at online shopping. The Case for Jesus even comes in an audible version - 7 1/2 hours of great listening.
Jesus asks, Who do you say that I am? Don't brush off that question. Your life depends on it. Lately, many people have been saying, Better safe than sorry. If one day you wake up standing before Jesus, you will at least want to say you honestly examined the evidence. It will sound pretty weak to say, "well, I watched a program on television or I saw a YouTube video." You want to examine the evidence. We now have 50 days between now and Pentecost Sunday to do exactly that - examine the evidence. That's the scientific thing to do - consider the evidence. Keep coming back. For today it's enough to come to the tomb with Peter and John. Peer inside. See the burial garments carefully rolled up. Did someone steal Jesus' body? I don't think so, but draw your own conclusion. Take time to wonder. Then come back. The best is yet to come.
From Archives (Easter Sunday Homilies):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru