Fr Nigel’s Homily: We hear in today’s Gospel that, “In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were and they were in fear.”
Let’s go back to the time when we first realised the magnitude of COVID-19. When we first realised that the rate of infections were going up and we were highly susceptible to the danger of infection. How we began stocking up on food, toilet rolls and anything we thought was necessary to carry us through the unknown period of isolation. Within the uncertainty, a sense of panic and fear was evident.
As social beings, we know isolation can be detrimental to us, yet the risk presented by COVID-19 was greater than anything that we had known in the past. As a society, we took the path of the less harmful way to protect one another. As a result, for many there was a disconnection from the usual supports, including family, friends, church, colleagues, sports clubs and more.
Indeed, for many, this period of isolation has been challenging and stressful. For some of us, it has triggered anxiety, extreme emotions and a deep mistrust of others. In such a state, it can be hard for us to have a sense of the scale of our problems. Fear distorts our thinking and often makes us react in ways that we can never imagine.
The disciples in today’s Gospel would have felt similar things. They were scared to go out and the doors were closed. Everything outside was a threat, magnified by fear. Jesus then appears to them and his words are: ‘Peace be with you’. And he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. The spirit comes with the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear (awe and wonder) of the Lord. We read from Luke’s account in Acts that the people were bewildered, amazed and astonished.
‘Peace be with you’ are gentle words from Our Lord to us, who knows that we face uncertain times and we need that Peace which God alone can give. Today, as we celebrate the birthday of the Church, let us remove fear from our hearts and our minds and let the Holy Spirit come to us and work through us so that people may see the ‘marvels of God’.