Rumors, Rumors, Rumors

There are idle rumors and there are active or real rumors. For the most part rumors usually turn out to be false. Only one rumor that turned out to be fantastic good news is the one that was passed around Jerusalem. It was the one that followed Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. Our gospel-story for this weekend is from the evening of Christ’s resurrection. Two of His followers were ‘getting out of town’ and heading for the town of Emmaus some seven miles away. The Roman authorities and Jewish religious leaders were on the lookout for Jesus’s followers. They were ready to put down any possible riots by starting a rumor that Jesus’ followers had stolen His body from the tomb. Fortunately, these two travelling disciples had heard another rumor. This one turned out to be wondrously true. It was that an angel had appeared at Jesus’ tomb and told the women, who had followed Him, that Jesus was still alive. Now the dilemma…which rumor should they believe? Nevertheless, it seemed like a good time to get out of town. They were grieving, in shock, confused by Jesus’ death and the strange rumors about His resurrection. Like them, we can suffer a loss and be overwhelmed by so many questions and emotions. How do you clear your head and think straight? Ever go for a walk and accomplish this along the way? That is what they did by leaving Jerusalem and heading for Emmaus.
What happens next is utterly amazing. Our scripture text reads: “And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them.” What a reassuring statement that He was with them in their time of confusion and need. He knew their disappointment, pain, and fear…as He does ours. One of the greatest blessings God can give us is not an easy life. It is the knowledge that He is with us in all our challenges and struggles. How significant that we hear this message of hope as we are still in isolation because of Covid-19! As hard as it may be to accept this message it is a theme that is repeated over and over again in the scriptures. God does not give us an easy life but is always with us in our challenges and struggles. Jesus never gives a blessing without first giving us a lesson. He often asked others to participate in His miracles, Why? He did not need their help. It was because they needed to take a step, in faith, in order to act.
Such is our current situation as we battle the virus that has paralyzed the world, sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands. Pandemics unfortunately happen with regularity. In my lifetime (since 1951), there have been eight global pandemics which have killed millions of people. They include: Asian Flu (1957-58), Hong Kong Flu (1968-70), Aids (1981-present), SARS (2003), Swine Flu (2009), MERS (2015), Ebola (2014-16), and now Covid-19. Throughout all these pandemics there has always been the challenge to take a step in faith so that God can act in our faith-lives. When you pray for healing and patience, God does not just grant you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. He sends challenging situations and people into your path. When you pray for wisdom, God does not send you situations that require humility and discernment. We learn Gods greatest lessons through the challenges He sends us. (our current situation included). To those disciples on the road to Emmaus it was His seeming absence that caused them to sincerely want and need Him even more! Those are times when we walk by faith and not by sight.
If God answered our every prayer in our manner and in our time, if God acted in ways that were perfectly reasonable and accommodating to our wants and wishes, we would never need to exercise our faith in Him. We would never need to quiet the noise within us and listen to His voice. We would seek His blessings and physical healing but never seek Him. It was when we feel that God withholds Himself from us, that we stop taking Him for granted. When we notice the lack, the very absence, the void, that’s when we set aside minor, shallow pleasures and ache for God. That is how I feel with not having all of you to gather around our altar to celebrate Mass. You, the parish community, are absent and I ache to be with you in prayer again. Our ‘Mass-distancing’ is something we hopefully all cannot wait to end.
I have heard from many of you that ‘watching’ Mass on T.V. or the Internet is not like attending Mass in church. It certainly is not! Perhaps it is in times like these, times of separation, that we eventually become aware of Gods larger vision for the world. Have you noticed that many of the current T.V. advertisements are not so much selling their products as reminding us that we belong to one global community? Isn’t it fantastic that corporate America is advertising for something that we are all longing for...a truly caring world and America? Yes, there is great loss all around us…the loss of health and lives, jobs and classes, the freedom of movement, and mask-free faces. What we need to pray for is the awareness of God’s presence and comfort to get us through this crisis and allow us to go on living with a renewed hope and determination.
Crisis is not new to the church and the members of the body of Christ. The empty tomb created a crisis for Jesus’ followers, throwing them into a time of intense difficulty and trouble. As they faced this crisis, they knew that they had to make an important decision. In fact, the Greek word “krisis’ means ‘decision.’ Like them we must decide which rumor to believe…the one contrived by the Roman and Jewish authorities or of His female followers. The Easter rumor created an Easter crisis, one that forces all of us to decide whether we believe that God is always with us…or not! The disciples’ situation was unstable until they recognized Him walking with them. Our situation is similarly unstable. Until we realize God is present with us throughout our time of isolation and uncertainty we too are listening to the untrue rumor. Today we are experiencing the Easter Crisis of 2020. So, let us respond by imitating His travelling disciples who said: “were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us…the Lord is truly risen.” Let us remember that “krisis’ means to decide…and applies to both our faith and world situation. Let us decide to be encouraged!
Easter Season blessings, again and forever,