Mass & Directions

Easter Homily – Sunday April 12th, 2020

St. Francis Parish | April 11, 2020, 5:36 pm | Reflections

At the Easter Vigil Mass we read from the Old Testament about our salvation history.  It is good to know our salvation history, to know how God has been faithful to us.  How He created the world, the light, the stars, the animals and then us, and He made us in his image and likeness.  He was faithful to our Fathers in Faith, to Abraham and Isaac, and blessed Abraham saying He will make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore.  He rescued the Israelites from the slavery of the Egyptians, with great power He split the sea to allow them safe passage, while the Egyptians drowned in the receding waters behind them.  God has been faithful in Salvation history and He is still faithful today, in giving us our Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of sacrifice, the Son of God, who died and who rose.  He plunged into our darkness, and took on sin and death head on.  The devil thought he won when our Savior died, but oh he was so wrong!  On the third day he rose from the dead with great triumph.  This is what we heard about in the Gospel reading, this is what we are about as Christians!  It’s all about the victory of Jesus Christ.

And what did Jesus tell the women when he appeared to them on the way to deliver the message to the disciples?  He said, “Do not be afraid.”  DO NOT BE AFRAID!  This is exactly what we need to hear, isn’t it?  We are fearful because death appears to be winning in the current pandemic.  We are fearful because we have maybe forgotten our history, that God always comes through, and he will always lift us up. We are fearful because we need to be reminded again of the victory of Jesus.  

Yes there is no denying that these times are dark, but we will get through.  And there are already signs of God working in the midst of all this darkness of the pandemic.  I will give some examples.

People are responding generously not only to our church and our church’s needs, but also to the poor, to St. Vincent de Paul, bring in food, so that those who are less fortunate can have something to eat.  But we need to keep that up, there is still much need.  But I am encouraged by you and your generous spirit.

Another example is that I received an email from our Bishop, Bishop Weisenburger, saying that the pastoral care department of the Tucson Catholic hospitals is reaching out to parishioners and schools asking for prayers for hospital staff because the grueling work of caring for so many extremely sick patients has left them physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  The department is also asking for thank you cards and notes of appreciation.  School students or any child can do colorful posters thanking the cleaning crew, cafeteria workers, ward clerks, respiratory technicians, transportation personnel, doctors, nurses and the entire hospital staff for their hard work and dedication – the encouragement will do wonders for them.  I know that the people in Tucson will respond to these beautiful requests, and maybe here in Yuma we can do the same for our hospital workers.  It’s just an idea, we’ll post on our webpage later if and how this can be done, but I think it’s a beautiful idea, encouraging those in the frontlines of this battle.

Then I heard that there is this clapping or howling done in the evening to show support to our first responders and health care workers, or to just relieve some pain and frustration.  It’s done at 7 or 8pm in many major cities, people clapping from their apartment windows or balconies.  I saw a video of one nurse who traveled far from his hometown to respond to the great need for more nurses in New York City.  He heard the loud clapping and was brought to tears of emotion, knowing he is appreciated for his tremendous sacrifice.  How moving this must have been for him!  Dr Scott Cypers at the University of Colorado said the nightly howling is a primal affirmation that provides a moment’s bright spot each evening by declaring, collectively: We shall prevail!  It’s a way to take back some of the control that the pandemic-forced social isolation has forced everyone to give up.  Hospital provider Jerrod Milton said it inspires him with a sense of solidarity and appreciation; and it makes him laugh as sometimes he cannot tell the difference from the howling of humans, to those of our canine friends.

There is another article from the Yuma Sun that says that Yuma County is rated tops in the state for social distancing.  A data collection and analysis firm gave us a B + rating, the best in the state.  We are keeping our distance from each other for our protection and to keep people alive.  Kevein Tunell, Communications director for Yuma County, said this rating is a positive sign of what Yuma as a community can do.  It’s indicative of the resolve we have as a community, he said.  “Whenever there’s a lot of confusion and we’re headed towards a problem like this, it can be intimidating… but this community has showed that its able to pull itself together and hold up…If you’re wondering if we are making a difference, I believe this shows we are.”  But the work still isn’t over he said.  We need to continue to maintain social distance for as long as our government and health experts tell us to.  We cannot let up now.  Let’s keep up the good work, keep safe, keep others safe.  Let’s go for the A rating.

These are some good news, these are some lights in the midst of all the darkness.  Our own suffering may be great, but maybe it’s not as great as some of the others dying from this virus and their family members.  We have to put things into perspective, and we each have to do our part whatever that part may be, to keep everyone safe.

I want to share with you that I chose a while back the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the symbol to go on our Pascal Candle.  And much later, after I made the decision to order the candle with the Sacred Heart, I found out that the COVID-19 virus actually can do damage to the heart of some people.  So we need the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we him to heal our broken hearts, our sickened hearts, our hearts that are saddened by what’s going on. Oh Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

So there are good things happening in the midst of all this darkness.  Jesus is coming with his light to expel the darkness of our world.  May his light shine in us!  May we remember our history, the fact that God has always come through and saved his people.  Our Risen Savior is doing the same today.  All glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!  Amen.  Happy Easter!

Fr Emilio Chapa

Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Parish

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