Returning to normal, or better
Christ is truly risen from the dead. He has conquered sin and its bitter effects of sickness, error and ignorance, and its most bitter effect — death itself. Christ reigns and is sovereign of His Kingdom that the Church — established by Him — inaugurates into being through the proclamation of His Gospel. We know this through faith and are reminded of it daily through our prayers and through the offering and acceptance of works of mercy at home and in our greater community. The Gospel readings of the Easter season present to us the unmistakable mission given us by Christ to march quickly and confidently into the future to proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s Resurrection with courage in the face of fear and doubt.
The current circumstances of the world in which we live suggest to us that there is much for us to fear about the future. The world of the flesh tells us that Christ doesn’t reign but that COVID-19 reigns with power and intimidation to take our health, to take our lives and those of our loved ones, to wreck our economy, and to take our livelihood — even to take away our faith by preventing gatherings (including Mass and Confessions) of more than 10 people. The world of the flesh tells us to be afraid of the future because things will not be the same — that they will be worse for us.
Yet, we know better. We know that Christ has risen from the dead. We know, like the world of the flesh, that things will not be the same as before. Yet, unlike the world of the flesh, we know that things will not be the same as before — they will be better. We shape the future in living the Gospel with confidence in the present moment. Christ has entrusted us with the mission to be converted and to convert those enslaved in fear by the world of the flesh.
We will go forward with confidence, not returning to what was normal, if by “normal” we meant taking the sacraments for granted, as entitlements of convenience. We will go forward with confidence, not returning to normal, if by “normal” we meant living our lives as if God doesn’t exist in any way that affects how we live our lives and how we care for our neighbors. We will go forward with confidence, not returning to normal, if by “normal” we meant treating the Church as only a place to go and not a vocation of our being in relationship with Christ and with each other in love and service. We will go forward with confidence, not returning to normal, if by “normal” we meant living life looking out only for ourselves as individuals and being indifferent to the suffering of others. It means that when we return to church and the frequent reception of the sacraments — including Penance and Eucharist — we do so with a renewed spirit of gratitude for God’s grace as He changes our lives — soul and body — and not simply a return to a “normal” mindset that treats Penance as a relief valve for guilty feelings, and the Eucharist as a commodity with only private value.
I know how much you miss going to church on Sunday. I want you to know that I miss you too. Your priests miss you. Your neighbors miss you. As we go through this together, our vision at the end of this is a return to the full celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and the other sacraments as Christ intended, but not a return to “normal.” There is light at the end of the tunnel, the light of Christ, “who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed His peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.”