We approach the end of Easter this Sunday. Quite appropriate as our Diocese will start celebrating public masses again this week, ushering in a New Pentecost. The Gospel today cannot be more appropriate for what is happening to us. Jesus said, The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. In this pandemic, where we are prevented from receiving the Eucharist, when we are scattered, each locked down at home. The priest celebrates mass on his own, showing Jesus is alone. Yet, Jesus said I am not alone because the Father is with me. However, even if the priest celebrates the Eucharist privately, he is not alone, because the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are present. We also believe, as Catholics, that wherever the mass is celebrated, countless angels and saints are present, even if we do not see. And in a mystical way, we also join that celebration because we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
So yes, in the time of darkness, when our eyes betray the reality, we hold to what we are taught through the centuries, that God is present with us, even if we cannot see. Jesus ends today’s Gospel in a defiant and victorious note: in the world you face persecution. But take courage: I have conquered the world. Jesus did not say I will conquer the world. But he said I have conquered the world. The conquest IS done, even before the crucifixion. The crucifixion is the way to complete the conquest.
Just as when we suffer, and when we invite Jesus into our suffering, we have conquered the world. The conquest over the suffering will be completed when Jesus fully reveals his power, just as he did, when he rose from the dead. This is why the Holy Spirit is critical in our lives. In the First Reading St Paul met some disciples in Ephesus who have not even heard of the Holy Spirit. They have received the baptism of John which calls them to repent and believe in Jesus. Repentance and faith in Jesus is the first step towards salvation. Repentance and faith justifies us before God. However, we need to be transformed after God justifies us. This is the role of the Holy Spirit: to transform us so that we can conform to the plan God wants for us.
What does this transformation look like? The Gospel Acclamation today says if then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. When we are transformed, we seek what is from God. We seek the will of God, we seek God himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is why even in the darkness of this pandemic, we can hope, because our faith is not based on what we can see. It is based on our knowledge of who Jesus is.
We celebrate St Bede today. He was a Benedictine monk in the seventh century. At that time, Rome has collapsed and the monasteries in Europe stepped in to hold society together. Bede lived a quiet life of prayer and work. He wrote many works, such as commentaries on Scripture. His most important work is the Ecclesiastic History of the English people which is the source of Anglo-Saxon history. This happened at a time when society was in the Dark Ages. Yet, through this Dark Age, the monasteries in Europe did what they did: prayed, worked, studied and administered. In the process, they saved Western civilization. This contradicts what society tells us that the Dark Ages was a time of superstition and decay. God was working silently through the monks and in doing so, prepared the world for the explosion of knowledge, science and arts after that. If it were not for the monasteries at that time, Western civilization would collapse.
2 Kings 6 tells us as an army that surrounded the city, the servant of Elisha came to him in panic asking what they are to do. In response Elisha said Do not be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Elisha prayed: open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see. The servant saw horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Our lives will not be the same after this pandemic. We will not go back to the old normal. Things are uncertain. There may be fear of what will happen. But Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid… I have overcome the world. Sufferings and the darkness veil the glory behind it. Trust in Jesus, he has overcome the world.
Lord, in the midst of my suffering, I cannot see you, yet you command me not to be afraid, because you have overcome the world. Open my eyes then Lord, that I may see, the many that surround me, the chariots of fire from your hosts that protect me. Let me rejoice and exult before you. Let me sing to you because you are the Father and protector of those who trust you. Come Holy Spirit, show me the power of God.