Priests of diocese share Easter joy with absent faithful via livestreamed Masses

Flowers surround the altar as Father Bowan Schmitt, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Danville, celebrates a recently livestreamed Mass.

It is only natural that some sadness and fear would be mixed with Easter joy this year, as COVID-19 restrictions kept people from gathering inside their churches and celebrating with family, but joy must have the greater claim according to homilies given by priests around the Diocese of Peoria this year.

After all, Jesus’ first words after the resurrection were “Be not afraid,” said Father John Thieryoung, pastor of St. Catherine in Aledo, St. Anthony in Matherville, and St. John in Viola. He livestreamed Mass from his Facebook page on April 12.

“Even in the midst of what’s going on around us at this time in history, we need to realize we are already resurrection people,” he said. “The presence of God, his glory, his power, can be ours if we are faithful to him.”

“One of the glories of this unfortunate situation we’re in, and I think it’s a true blessing if you will, is that it gives us an opportunity to ponder in our hearts the objective reality of our faith,” said Father Matthew Deptula during a livestreamed Mass from St. Edward Church in Chillicothe, where he is pastor.

“Despite my feelings that it’s not a normal Easter Sunday or it didn’t seem like Good Friday, it doesn’t matter because God’s reigning in his holy heaven and his Son rose from the grave today, whether we feel like it or not.” — Father Matthew Deptula, pastor, St. Edward, Chillicothe

“Despite my feelings that it’s not a normal Easter Sunday or it didn’t seem like Good Friday, it doesn’t matter because God’s reigning in his holy heaven and his Son rose from the grave today, whether we feel like it or not. In a certain sense, that ought to excite us.”

“We were created by God for joy and to be joyful people,” said Father Peter Zorjan, pastor of St. Patrick in Colona and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Silvis. “God wants us to be joyful witnesses in this life and to find our peace and joy in him.”

Even in quarantine we shouldn’t be sad, Father Zorjan said, because “Easter is real, Jesus is real. This really did happen. But do we trust Jesus, do we love Jesus, even in the midst of such difficult times?”

RUN TO THE TOMB

Msgr. Mark Merdian, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island and celebrant of the Easter Sunday Mass livestreamed from the Diocese of Peoria’s website, said this Easter was very like the first Easter, where the disciples were locked in their houses, fearful for their lives.

“Alone in their homes, the early disciples of Jesus dared to believe that hope was possible. That the long days and the long nights were over and that morning had broken, that God’s love was stronger than fear, than persecutions, than viruses, than sickness, than death,” he said.

“Easter is real, Jesus is real. This really did happen. But do we trust Jesus, do we love Jesus, even in the midst of such difficult times?” — Father Peter Zorjan, pastor, St. Patrick, Colona, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Silvis

We must live out Jesus’ message of love by reaching out and serving our brothers and sisters in need and practicing charity in the home, Msgr. Merdian said. That includes putting others first, praying every day, and making our homes the domestic church.

“Let us run to share in every way, to every person, the good news that Jesus is truly risen,” he said. “May we share the good news wherever we are.”

Father Patrick Henehan, pastor of St. Jude in Peoria, encouraged people to make Easter more than a one-day celebration.

“I pray that it’s not just a day, but that it truly becomes something that stays at our core, that it stays with us for the rest of our lives so that we don’t take our faith for granted,” he said.

Like Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, we must run to the tomb, especially in light of the struggles we are having, so that our faith goes with us always, throughout our lives.

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