They were live witnesses to Jesus’s crucifixion on the cross, and they were now huddled together in what remained of their tiny community. Post-crucifixion, they were drawing strength and comfort from one another, for fear of persecution from the Jews. While we have the gift of hindsight and could see the Lord’s promises and have come to understand Jesus’ repeated teaching on what was to come when he was still with the disciples, one can imagine the bewilderment, confusion and dejection the disciples must have felt.  In spite of the many miracles they had observed, their Messiah, the one in whom they had pinned all their hopes, was no more.  Jesus, they thought, could not save himself from the cross.

When tragedy strikes, it throws our lives into complete disarray – like it did to the disciples.  We feel lost, frightened and panic engulfs us.  We start sinking into despair, we lose hope and faith.  Typically, in times of crisis, our first reaction is to seek comfort from those close to us; who may have gone through similar experiences as we search for direction, reassurance and support. However, with the current COVID-19 situation, we are instead distancing and isolating ourselves from one another, in part to exercise our social responsibility, in another part, for fear of catching the viral infection – we become concerned with our own personal needs instead of providing relief and support for one another in the community. As the Eucharistic Celebrations have been suspended and not being able to receive Jesus sacramentally, we feel helpless and lost: and we may feel like God has abandoned us or worse, feel resentment and anger towards God.  We start to blame God and question why he allowed the tragedy to happen. Ironically, seeking refuge in God during these times is probably the last thing on our minds.

Like the disciples, we fail to realise that when our trials and sufferings are at their most intense and when we feel most helpless – God is with us.  Just as “Jesus came and stood among them” (Jn 20:19) when the disciples huddled in fear in the locked room, we are oblivious to the presence of Jesus in our state of despair.  Like the disciples, we become too preoccupied with our emotional turmoil and the outside world to realise that Jesus is in fact, right there with us.  Jesus appeared to the disciples not to rescue them from persecution or to offer them anything material.  Instead he came to offer them something seemingly intangible but was exactly what they needed.  He offered his peace.  With the greeting “Peace be with you”, Jesus calmed the disciples’ raging storm of emotions, as he did the sea “Peace! Be still!” (Mk 4:39).  He restored normality and brought them back to the present so that they can move forward, and not continue to dwell in the past.

Indisputably, the crucifixion of Jesus was an end to his earthly life, but it was not the end.  He commissioned his disciples to carry on the work that he had started.  To fortify the disciples for the mission and trials ahead, Jesus breathed into them the Holy Spirit, their advocate and guide.  By virtue of our baptism, we, too, have received the Holy Spirit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19).  Like the disciples, we cannot escape our trials in life.  However, we need to be aware that even in our deepest despair, when we turn to God in prayer and place our trust in him, he will lead us out of the darkest valley. Our trials may be overwhelming but Jesus has reassured us that “he will not leave us orphaned.” (Jn 14:18).  “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Is 41:10).

Joyous Praise,

Edwin Tung, Julia Tan, Jenny Ang