St. John, in his Gospel account, tells us how the disciples were hiding in fear of the Jews after Christ’s death. Though the doors were locked as they hid, Jesus shows up in the room and greets them, telling them, “Peace be with you.” As we know from other places in the Gospel (Luke 24:41-43), Jesus is not a ghost, which is why He asked for something to eat at another time after rising. Note too that Jesus, who is not a ghost and has a risen body, just appears in their midst in this locked room. It reminds me of Luke 24:31 when Christ vanishes after the disciples going to Emmaus recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. These two instances, among others, show us that Jesus has no restrictions or limitations.
This fact should be comforting in a time where many people are missing receiving Him in the Eucharist or praying before Him in the tabernacle. The Eucharist is and always will be the source and summit of our Catholic faith. While it is the apex, the highest point of our faith, it does not mean that it is the only thing. Think about it; there could be no highest point to a mountain, no mountaintop, without the rest of the mountain beneath it. During this time, you and so many are not able to reach this summit in the Eucharist; however, the God who is present in it still bestows graces upon us. That said, rather than focusing on what separates us now, look at all the ways we can unite ourselves to Christ.
Christ did more than just greet the disciples on that first day of the week; He gives them a mission. He tells them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John 20:21
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”John 20:22-23 RSV
The Church, who received the ability to absolve sin in the sacrament of Confession, has responded to our inability to receive it sacramentally at this time. The Church has directed us on what we can do to obtain forgiveness at this time.
Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental Confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).Note from the Apostolic Penitentiary on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic, 20.03.2020
Making a perfect contrition in this fashion is nothing new. The Church is reminding all the faithful that they can and should be doing this. In this reminder, we are given comforting words that when this is done coming out of love for God and having a firm resolve to make a sacramental confession when possible, we can obtain forgiveness of our sins. Even when churches are open again, not everyone can make it to Confession all the time. Making a perfect contrition with recourse to go should be done when that is the case.
The restrictions in place during this pandemic have separated many from the Eucharist and Confession. Having been reminded of what a perfect contrition is, we are also reminded that it is sin that separates us from God. This reminder from the Church is communicating to us an important thing we need during this time as with any; God’s grace and mercy. Being strengthened or restored in the life of grace strengthens or restores communion with God, who has no restrictions or limitations in being in our midst.
During this time of longing to return to those things that have not been accessible let us not forget what still is.