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(Abp. Filipe Neri Ferrão on the occasion of Easter 2020)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Risen Lord,

The special situation in which the whole world is plunged due to the Corona Virus
Pandemic has necessitated that I seek the help of CCR TV GOA and our Diocesan Centre for
Social Communications Media to reach out to you through television, first and foremost, to
wish you a holy, prayerful and grace-filled Feast of Easter, which is by far the most eminent
celebration of our Christian Faith in the Liturgical Year.
At Easter, we celebrate the Lord’s glorious Resurrection, His passage from death to
life, His triumph over sin and death, the victory of light over darkness. Indeed, the fifty days
from Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection until Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy
and exultation as one single feast day, as the Great Sunday (Magna Dominica).
To highlight the centrality of Easter in our lives, Saint Paul affirms in 1 Cor 15: 14, “If
Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
On this Feast of Feasts, locked as we all are in our dwellings, I would like to reach out
to you in your homes through this wonderful medium of television, with a reflection on how
we could make this Easter meaningful even in these uncharted times in which we all find
ourselves because of the COVID-19 virus onslaught. I shall base my reflection mainly on the
beautiful biblical episode of the Walk to Emmaus by the two disciples of Jesus, barely two
days after the death of their Master (Lk 24: 13-35).
In the above passage, Luke narrates that the disciples are going from Jerusalem to
Emmaus, about a seven-mile walk. Their hopes are dashed; their dreams are shattered; and
they feel lost, because the person they thought would liberate them from the domination of
the Romans had ended up suffering humiliation, torture and death on a cross. They are in a
situation of hopelessness.
Haven’t we experienced a certain hopelessness when we realized that we would not
be able to gather into our Churches as we always did during this most important Week of
our Christian Life? Isn’t our hopelessness somewhat similar to that of the two disciples on
the road to Emmaus? Our families, communities, nations, the whole humanity in fact, are
plunged in a most uncertain situation because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Our plans and
dreams have become blurred, our future itself seems so obscure. May be some of us have
even asked, “why has God gone into hiding?”
While the disciples were brooding over their plight, Jesus Himself draws near and
begins to walk with them, but their eyes are kept from recognizing Him. The tomb is empty
and Jesus now appears on the road to Emmaus, as a gentle companion who enters into
dialogue with His disciples, listening attentively, trying to understand their situation and to
feel their pain.

The Lord is risen! He lives with us till the end of the world. He walks with us gently
and feels with us. He never leaves us alone, although He appears at times to go into hiding.
The truth is that we fail to recognize Him during those uncertain times, in the persons we
meet and in the daily events of our life. He is the Emmanuel, the God with us, and his
unfailing, albeit sometimes unfelt, presence in our lives gives us a powerful message: DO
NOT FEAR, FOR I AM WITH YOU (Is 41: 10). When the Risen Lord appeared to the women
who had come to see the tomb where He lay, His first words to them were, “Greetings! Do
not be afraid!” (Mt 28: 9-10). The Risen Lord conquers every fear.
In his online Papal Audience last Wednesday, Pope Francis told us that Jesus
“embraces our fragility ….. transforming our doubts into faith and our fears into hope.” The
Lord is with us, embracing us … transforming us … even in this most unsure time of our life!

After listening to His two distressed disciples, Jesus exclaims: “O foolish ones and
slow of heart to believe! … and goes on to interpret to them the Scriptures … He breaks the
As a matter of fact, Jesus breaks His word for us every time we seek Him in the
Sacred Scriptures. The Sacred Scripture is indeed the ‘place’ where He abides and where He
is ever ready to meet us and to fashion us into His own image. Do we devote a fixed time of
our day to encounter the Lord in the Scriptures? Shouldn’t we? Especially now that we may
have more time at our disposal?

Meanwhile, the disciples drew near to the village; Jesus acted as if He was going
farther, but they urged Him: “stay with us, the day is far spent.”
They did the right thing: they invited Him to stay back, to enter more deeply into
their lives, because they realized that this gentle stranger had in him what they needed
most at that moment: some light in the horizon, some hope. Later on they would say to
each other: “weren't our hearts burning within us while he explained the Scriptures to us?”
On the other side, Jesus does not impose Himself on us; He respects our freedom and
patiently waits for us to open our doors to Him. Sisters and brothers, shall we take this lock-
down, which has come upon us uninvited, as an occasion to open our doors to the Lord, to
seek Him more assiduously in the Sacred Scriptures, either individually or as a family? More
than before, we need to invite Jesus to stay with us in our families, communities, countries
and indeed the whole world.

When they were at table, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them.
There could be no mistake now: He HAD TO BE the Master! But, before they could even utter
a word, He vanished from their eyes, leaving their hearts on fire.
This was no ordinary meal; it was, although in a flash, a Eucharistic experience where
the two encountered the real presence of Jesus, the Risen Lord, and were filled with the fire

and the joy of the Holy Spirit. My dear friends, if Jesus is present in our homes, in our
communities and in our fellowship, much more is He present in the Holy Eucharist, which
enables us to grow in communion with the Master. “Breaking bread” was what the early
Christians called the Eucharist. It was when they ‘broke bread’ with Jesus that the sadness of
the two disciples disappeared and they were filled with the joy of the Spirit. The Eucharist
opens our eyes and our hearts to experience Jesus in His fullness. Let us ask ourselves: do
we love the Mass enough? Has the present situation of having to participate in the Mass
without sacramental Communion increased in us the longing for the Eucharistic Meal --- so
that we can encounter the Risen Lord, both in the Breaking of the Word and of the Bread?

Filled with excitement over this unexpected encounter with the Risen Lord and
empowered both by the Word and the breaking of the bread, they rose from the table and
returned to Jerusalem there and then, in the dark of the night, but with their hearts filled
with a strange light that conquered every form of darkness. When they found the eleven,
they related their experience of the Risen Lord with bubbling joy and, in turn, found that the
others too had had a similar experience.
That’s what experiencing or receiving Jesus in the Eucharist can do to us. We are
filled with a desire to share Him with others, because when God enters our hearts, He
cannot be contained within; we need to share Him with others, and we do this best by
giving ourselves to others, in a total gift of self to the other. Has the COVID-19 experience
taught us that being in touch with those who share our life and home could be actually
more important and rewarding than having so many others crowding into our lives?

My dear brothers and sisters, by our Baptism we have been made sharers of the
triumph of the Risen Lord. Our Baptism calls us to be evangelizers, witnesses to the New Life
brought about by Jesus, through His Passion, Death and Resurrection. We are called to be
witnesses of the Resurrection through our words, deeds and testimony of life. In a world
that is increasingly becoming locked into itself, we need to proclaim that what seems to be
the end leads to a new beginning, that what appears to be the sunset leads to a new sunrise
and that the dark night ends in the dawn of a new day.
In the midst of the upsetting situation we are placed in, let us open ourselves to the
Lord who comes to meet us, transform us and empower us to be His joyful and courageous
witnesses. May He find in us sufficient willingness to become instruments of His Peace, Love
and Joy, both in the intimacy of our family and in a world which stands more and more in
need of these divine gifts.
I wish you all a Blessed Easter, filled with the abundance of grace that the Risen Lord