There are whispers that the first wave of COVID-19 is ebbing, but masks are mandated and social distancing remains the norm.  Encounters between friends have become virtual;  birthday trains and socially distanced visits have become accepted practice.  We are seeing the world through new lenses, measuring the days by hours inching by rather than by celebrating achievements, success, possibilities.  That awkward in-between space is staying with us.  The Gospel today mirrors that awkward space with a message both deep and demanding.

Luke 24 ventures from Jerusalem to the dusty road to Emmaus.  And there, caught between the story of the crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb, the disciples are traveling in shocked incredulity.  Circumstances are different, but the reality of confusion, uncertainty and ambiguity parallels what we are living through now.  Jesus met those disciples on the road to Emmaus; he journeyed with them and now he journeys with us.  Just as the disciples did not quite realize his Presence, it is a challenge for us to realize, to grasp that God is with us in this.

But the lessons are there for us, just as they were for the disciples.  Questioning, grieving, wondering and wanting are human needs and characteristics that Jesus welcomes.  All our grief and concerns, questions and worries are also welcomed by Jesus.  It is ours to open the conversation, lay out the story, share our persepctives.  This is a time that can be about deepening, developing, even nurturing a relationship through the simplicity of conversation, the exchange of ideas.

And then there is the art of listening, waiting.   Jesus spoke  with clarity, charisma and conviction.  He engaged fully with his audience, earned their interest, their welcome and their desire to hear more.  But they were listening.  It is ours to listen as well,  to take the time, find the space of a dusty road in the urgency of isolation so that his voice can echo, resonate,  in heart and soul.  In this place, in our time, a quiet moment can be elusive.  But the conversation might be more than worth it.

Finally, there is the episode that infuses the word “Emmaus” with the allure of encounter.    it explodes in the middle of the story and changes everything.  Recognizing who Jesus is in  the breaking of the bread is a moment of revelation, of truth.  It is knowing for a split second not only who He is, but who each of them are.  That same revelation, that sense of clarity, awaits each of us.  The timing may be different, but the idea of seeing things more clearly after prayer or conversations with Jesus is the same.  Recognition of Jesus cannot come without a clearer perception of self.  Emmaus is all about beginning and believing.

We are here, at the beginning of something entirely new.  Emmaus is the story that reminds us we are not alone in this; Jesus is here, walking with us through the most challenging hours, ready to listen and ready to be heard, to be seen.

Poverty of Waiting

John, chapter 20: Mary Magdalene at the tomb.   Magdalene who lives in the shadows of judgment and incredulity.  Jesus  speaks her name.  Magadalene knows, simply knows, the truth.  She names him in turn,  her teacher.  She trusts that moment, that insight, with courage and resilience. And she bears this news to the Apostles who are living the greatness of grief and the depth of fear.  She trusts. And she lingers in the uncertainty and the brokenness that crowds the Apostles into the Upper Room and into the unbearable waiting.  

There is a poverty to that kind of waiting, that powerlessness.  It is personal and collective, and its very nature defies every convention of  social organization.  It challenges the familiar, the understood.  It baits what is accepted as reality and it begs for innovation, for change.  It is a powerlessness that in depth and function parallels the dynamics of economic poverty.  It is paralyzing.  And like economic poverty, it is about process.

Now, in the midst of a pandemic that has a chokehold on society, is exhausting healthcare systems, crippling small businesses and re-shaping social institutions, there is that same poverty of waiting, a powerlessness.  Mary Magdalene’s story speaks to this moment, to this ambiguity and uncertainty and to the pathway forward. She chose to believe.  She trusted her vision. She knew.

The rawness of the epidemic, the way it engulfed so many countries so quickly, has left us grasping for effective responses.  All of our economic and technological privilege has shriveled as government searched for strategies and responses.  For a public largely disinterested and critical of government, the focus shifted.  Officials emerged at local, state and national levels weighing options and considering values.  Their decisions and choices have exposed our ability to cooperate, to collaborate and to consider a collective good, something greater than self.  But now, weeks after the initial heartbreak, that uncertainty and ambiguity about what lies ahead has begun to gnaw away at coping mechanisms.

Our poverty lies not only in the deaths, the lost jobs, closed businesses, and re-ordered systems.  It is in our waiting, in the powerlessness against this invisible enemy.  Mary Magadalene dared to chart a path in the very midst of a similar powerlessness.  She embraced the reality she could see, and she moved forward.  She participated in the process, in the next steps, in the healing and the hope.  She lived the uncertainty and ambiguity, and she found a voice in the essence of grief.

Here, poised on a flattening curve, our task is to move as she does.  This is our time to recognize what is happening with stark simplicity, without the weight of bias or prejudice.  We can name the poverty of our waiting, and we can choose, as she choose, how to proceed.  Our paths, in our very individualistic culture, are actually deeply intertwined: it is time to see one another in new ways, to realize the value of one and the significance of the whole.  This will be our time to become the architects of a new world, the world that waits.  Like Mary, we must be able to see beyond the tomb.





Easter Morning brought a world charged by a new reality.   This Easter we too face a world changed; an inconceivable reality has become so much more than real.  Easter Morning opened up new choices and decisions for those followed and loved Jesus and those who did not. Facing the choice, seeking the path, trusting in truth, the disciples forged a new community from a shattered one.  They clung to each other, sought wisdom, met failure and moved on.  Those moments of epiphany as they explored the empty cave and huddled in the upper room have a voice and speak to this moment in time.

The “old ways” could not continue.  Scripture shows  the wrestling among believers over that.  Consensus was not easily attained.  But the idea that the disciples, missioned on Pentecost, moved through this initial time of transition to re-discover the presence of Jesus in the world speaks volumes.  Easter morning was a moment that mattered to each of them in diiferent ways.  There was grief and mourning, skepticism and confusion, all the emotions that swell in tragedy’s wake.  In facing that, the disciples were able to walk with one another and take next steps with purpose and freedom. Easter Morning was a turning point that empowered each person to choose anew.

The power of Easter Morning lives today because the story  so closely intimates the journey of life.  It defies the limits of popular culture and speaks to the deeper aspect of humanity.  Strugggles and challenges, loss and confusion are basics of the human experience.  Life is not easy.  Strength comes from the community of believers, from the simplicity of faith and the power of trust.  Recognizing Jesus present in one another and the critical nature of the mandate to “Love one another as I have loved you” made a real difference after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Every day, it mattered what the disciples did and how they did it. They acknowledged death and embraced resurrection; they chose to live in the light of hope and purpose.  They sumounted incredulity and took action.   They lived out new possiblities.

Imprisoned as we are by the “Invisible Enemy” , the parallels of the resurrection to what the world faces today abound. The lessons are clear: this awful reality has taken place.  Our strongest resource is our own community; there will be new paths and chocies unfolding.  There will be moments of doubt and skepticism, disagreement and daring.  Like Jesus and his disciples, “loving one another” will be a key factor in moving forward. It will matter what we do and how we do it.  After devastating loss, we will need to choose to live in the light of hope with purpose.  It will be time to live out new possibilities.  Easter was a turning point so long ago; it can be our turning point now, our promise to the future.






COVID-19 has shaped a new world, one without the gift, comfort and challenge of the sacrments.  It has deprived us of physical community; this year, there will be no communal sharing of he Gospel, no distribution of palm, no blessings, no Holy Week schedule.  But this unimaginable lack of access to the sacraments is actually an opportunity to discover the reality of the sacred, the divine.  There, in every breath, the beauty of the sacred resides.

In the glimpse of a sunrise and the openness of a blue sky, there is hidden the hand of the Creator.  There is a divine spark in the laughter of children and the smiles of partners.  That spark is there, too, in the tears of grief and the exhaustion of volunteers.  That divine spark is ever-present in the world, and in this time of uncertainty, fear and ambiguity,  the sacred needs to be recognized, known, more than ever.

The sacred rests in social distancing, in neighbors reaching out, in sharing resources.  It is there in families coming together and in the countless drive bys for grandparents, the visits to nursing home windows and the selfless service of volunteers.  It is there in the acts of kindness: pizza deliveries to emergency rooms, dancing in the streets in Buffalo at 5 pm and cheering for health care workers at 7 in New York City.  It is there in the live stream concerts by celebrities and the FaceTiming between friends, in the lines winding along the sidewalks outside grocery stores, in the rainbows fastened to windows and the Christmas lights that offer hope.

We have re-aligned our lives to virtual experiences in teleworking and distance learning.  We are grieving the loss of jobs and income, moments lost forever, and the horror of the beloved dying alone.  We are struggling to grasp the reality of viral transmissions and safety precautions, to be respectful of needs and somehow come together to battle an enemy who has so humbled us.

We have known  the cost of indifference and ignorance; we have learned that the global community can be united in tragedy and loss.  And in the waves of loss, of disbelief, there are new realities.  Our governments are not omniscient; in the democracies of the world, citizenship carries a responsibility that echoes the sacred, the divine spark.  In the absence of all else, recognizing the importance of each person’s responsibilty to the next person is critical.  There, in the new bonds that are emerging, there lives the sacred.

This year, we cannot affirm the sacred through the sacraments, but there is no doubt that we can sense the divine in the new simplicity of our very ordinary lives.  We have learned that we may be physically separated, but that does not in any way mean we are isolated.  What is sacred is here all the while, visible to every seeing heart, inviting us to become sacraments to one another.  Sacraments are the reminder of the gift of community; the sacred, the divine spark, is the source of all that.  And, somehow, that is easier to see in the midst of this pandemic.