There are no public masses in Bangkok from today, yet again. This third wave is looking far more threatening. Even if there is a lockdown, time will never stop. Life will go on seemingly without mercies; if we are already in a challenging time, it will get even worse. Uncertainties, anxieties, anger, despair, and fear aggravate our emotional turmoil forming questions that should ask about our faith life. When churches re-open, we will all be there at the door. The question will then be, “Are you returning or leaving?”
Nothing it seems will be the same again when we emerge from this pandemic. The congregation at mass will certainly not be. There will be familiar faces missing, but there will also be new faces. We tend to be more concern about people leaving, but we must reset our spiritual mindset to keenly embrace those who are returning. Nothing will be the same again. The emotional turmoil from the pandemic will recalibrate our spiritual life. Doors will open into a new church. We will be at the door.
The church in Singapore is making tentative steps to re-open. This week a program welcoming returning Catholics was launched. Maybe not everything is bad about the pandemic. For one it has sent us into the desert to ponder life. In our desert we will surely look at where life have taken us. We will look at the roads we have journeyed, what happened to us? Everyone has a story. Returning to church is no longer returning to the pews to fulfil our Sunday obligation. Returning to church is about re-encountering the Risen Christ in the chapters of our life story. Only then can we believe again.
“The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.” (Today’s Gospel)
Returning is a process. Today’s readings all speak of this process: Reconciliation, forgiveness, repentance, and the eventual encounters with the Risen Christ. A person wanting to return to Church first hears the call of the Holy Spirit. No, it did not come from standing atop the mountain in the whispering wind. The call comes from the happenings in our life in the here and now of the present. More often than not the call is louder in despairing situations. And all we want is peace.
“‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?”
We can be lost along the road of life. The happenings create emotional turmoil that confuse us. We can be agitated, doubting the mercy of God. We can be agitated by a false sense of guilt about leaving God somewhere along the road. We doubt if we are worthy to return. We have lost all understanding that God is always forgiving, never judgmental. We are so agitated and doubtful, yet we stand at the door. At the door this week, the church in Singapore offers this journey accompaniment to listen, speak and explain the Risen Christ walking with us.
This pandemic has given us the chance to look at our life in all the details. You will find that God is often found in the little details. If you look at the road you have travelled in life, one of the greatest discoveries is that “I have left Christ, but he has never left me”. When churches re-open, at the door, are you coming or going?
“Lord Jesus, explain the Scriptures to us. Make our hearts burn within us as you talk to us.”
3rd Sunday of Easter