Not nice to forget someone’s birthday. We like for people to remember and to wish us well. We certainly enjoy a good party. Today is our birthday, as a Church. Happy Birthday to us!
Birthdays are occasions to bring out the old pictures—to reminisce about where we were and to dream of what will be. Like every family, the Church has a past of which we can be proud and also events that we would rather keep quiet. Frankly, at times we act like babies, as if we are just getting out from behind locked doors. Some of us are still behind locked doors—not for fear of the Jews, but for fear of the virus that has infested our world. History repeats itself—when we are fearful, we hide. Yet, regardless of where we hide, Jesus finds us. The first words from His mouth to a frightened Church are, “Peace be with you.” His healing words are better than any news development, government directive or medical revelation. No one and nothing can bring peace like Jesus Christ. He is the reason that the Church exist. He has to be our reason for living. Perhaps some have wondered whether God cares, whether God is paying attention to our tribulations, if this trial will come to an end. Maybe the early Christians were asking the same questions. They put their lives on the line just by calling themselves Christians. To be associated with “People of the Way”, as they were known, was against the law, punishable by death. Relatives, friends, neighbors were killed just for professing Jesus as the Christ, as Lord and Savior. But the persecution only made them stronger. When we look back at our lives, the most difficult times have always served to make us stronger, when we have trusted in God.
He’s in charge anyway. The past months have served as a reminder that with God all things are possible, without Him, we can do nothing. That’s why the Holy Spirit had to come. Only with the grace of the Holy Spirit can we open our hearts to depend on God. Without God’s grace we are just fearful people hiding behind locked doors. Countless have given testimony of how being at home helped the family to grow, to pray, to have fun together. Some experienced the opposite. God seeks willingness—a contrite spirit for our failures and willingness to do our best regardless of the situation. Lent, Holy Week and Easter were not our typical celebrations. Stress level was high in families who experienced loss of employment or worse, loss of life. However, the one constant that can never be questioned is God’s unconditional love for us.
Virus or no virus, at home or in church, holy feelings or anxiety, God does not change His mind about His Church. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Most freeing power we have is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a Sacrament of healing. We can start by forgiving ourselves. No sin is worth retaining. Lack of forgiveness will poison our soul. In refusing to let go, we hurt ourselves. We’ve all heard people say, or perhaps we have said, “I just can’t forgive that person for what they did.” Not true. Otherwise we declare the Holy Spirit to be powerless. We ask God to forgive us, we must forgive each other—forgive everyone, even those who do not deserve our pardon. Notice that from the inception of the Church, the first directive is forgiveness. The breath of the Holy Spirit can heal a broken world. As the Church we embody the voice of Christ that brings true peace. The starting place is our family. There is no better time like the present. We have the grace to put away old hurts, resentment, unmet expectations. As we emerge from behind locked doors a new beginning can take place. The past can never be changed, only redeemed, forgiven. We cannot hope for peace in the world when we do not have peace in our family.
In the mists of our worries, Jesus finds us and says, “Peace be with you.” His peace is all that we need.