3rd Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021

With the Easter season, this past week, I spent three evenings in parishes celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Such opportunities – for me – are more welcomed than ever since last year, I was unable to visit our parishes for the celebration of the Sacrament.  And as is always the case, what I receive from our young people is seems to be so much more than what I am able to give.  This week was no exception.

One pastor shared these profound reflections from an 8th grade student’s service project that was done in anticipation of her reception of Confirmation.  Listen to some of the words of a 14 year old girl:

I explored my options for my service project.  I thought about the environment, the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and so on.  I thought about things that felt close to my heart, but nothing was really clicking.  …  Then, one night as I was folding laundry, a night I had this incredible feeling of pure joy in my chest, I tuned in to that feeling and listened. 

 You see, before, I was always confused on how to hear God.  I didn’t understand that God doesn’t always speak through words, and that we don’t always hear with our ears.  But this night changed me forever.  I listened with my heart.  I don’t know how to exactly describe it, but all I can say is that it was a feeling. 

 That voice or feeling told me my mission.  …  So many people have barely anything to wear, and here I am with way too many clothes.  But it wasn’t just clothes.  It was my food, my house, my money, and the love I have around me.  At that moment, I knew God’s plan for me.  I knew my calling. 

 We called Keystone Mission and planned a date to come down to Wilkesbarre and distribute the 35 meals we made for the people.  …  We then drove to the public square and got out of our cars.  We helped the guy get some of the stuff out of his van.  He had a lot of stuff for them besides our donation of food.

 We then waited for the people.  Soon enough, people stopped by, said hello, and picked up their meal.  Some stayed for a while to talk and almost all of them knew the guy we were with.  We listened to their stories, their struggles, their lives.  It was so eye-opening to hear how hard their lives are and how they live through them every single day. 

 Of course I got tired and extremely cold being out in the winter air for two hours, but when I thought of all the people who are out here all day, every day, I thanked God for how lucky I was.

 When we left, and went into the warm car, I reflected on what I had just done.  …  It was like there had been a hole in my soul and part of that hole had been filled.  And the rest, I would be filling for my entire life.  By doing God’s calling to me.

 Everyone has this hole, and everyone has a mission.  All we need to do is listen.  Turn up the volume in your heart.  Don’t turn it on mute.  Once you hear God’s voice, you just have to get your cross and follow his lead. 

 Pretty powerful reflections from a 14-year-old girl!

Our scripture passages on this 3rd Sunday of Easter – particularly the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel passage from Saint Luke all reiterate the Easter message – that Jesus would suffer, carry a cross, be put to death and the rise from the dead:  the cross giving way to life and peace.

We know the crosses that make their way into our lives, don’t we?  They come in all shapes and sizes and for countless numbers of reasons and none.  They sear our hearts with pain.  They wreck our bodies and wear them down.  They weaken our spirits.  They sap our energy.  And they can steal our hope.

I’m not so certain, however, that we always recognize the signs of resurrection.  Oh, to be sure, we experience signs of the resurrection of Jesus as we gather this morning for Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist.  No doubt, we reflect on the blessings of God won through Jesus’ resurrection when we encounter new life and the hope it brings.

Yet, there is a deep sense of wisdom shared by the young lady whom I quoted earlier in these reflections.  Recall that she discovered the power of God and the peace of the resurrection not simply by struggling to encounter God – but by carefully listening to our broken and struggling world with her heart.

She discovered that resurrection isn’t to be found by simply seeking a personal sense of peace and consolation.  No, in the mystery of God, resurrection is found when we embrace the life of Jesus and go to those places where he was found when he physically walked this world.

And where was Jesus found more than anyplace else?  …  With a grieving widow burying her son.  …  With a blind man who wanted to see.  …  With a disabled man who wanted to walk.  …  With a burdened woman who sought forgiveness.  …  With hungry crowds in search of food.

As we seek peace, consolation and the promise of Easter in the resurrection of Jesus, may we first and always remember and sear into our hearts the cross of Jesus and the selfless love that so characterized his life and death.  Go to the poor and suffering!  Jesus can still be found with them, healing their wounds and imparting his peace.

There we will truly find our peace and life!